Victoria tourism operators hopeful government help is coming

Victoria tourism operators hopeful government help is coming
WatchMany Victoria tourism operators have to close their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic but on Tuesday the Prime Minister said help is coming. April Lawrence reports.

Donna Friedlander’s horse carriage tour business was brought to a halt a month ago but she still has 18 hungry horses to feed.

“We spend over $10,000 a month just on care for the horses, so that’s their feed, their feet, their vet costs, and a bit of shelter for them and that adds up very very fast,” said Tally Ho Carriage Tour Owner Donna Friedlander at her Central Saanich farm.

But with the carriages sitting empty, no money is coming in. While there are government assistance programs for Friedlander’s laid-off employees, there is no extra funding to keep her horses cared for. With few other places to turn, she has started an online fundraiser to try to get them by for a year.

“It’s very humbling to be on a GoFundMe page, I never thought we would be there, but through friends and family people had suggested we try that as a starting point,” she said.

Most Victoria tourism operators would normally be gearing up for their money-making season right now so the COVID-19 pandemic comes at a particularly difficult time.

“These operators are coming off the off peak season where they had zero revenue and are heading into the peak season where they’re looking like they’re going to have very little if any revenue whatsoever,” said Destination Greater Victoria CEO Paul Nursey.

That includes the entire whale-watching industry.

“We’re looking at a 100 per cent reduction in revenues, so that’s a drastic cut,” said SpringTide Whale Watching Owner Dan Kukat.

Yet he says companies still face significant costs for things like insurance, moorage and office rent.

“Without some kind of assistance we’re not going to come out the other side looking the same or contributing the same just because it’s going to be hindered,” Kukat said.

While the federal government’s wage subsidy program will help, on Tuesday, the Prime Minister suggested more help for the industry is on the way.

“We will and we are looking at more specific sector-related relief and supports for those sectors that are hardest hit whether it’s the tourism sector, the airline sector or the oil and gas industry or others we will have more to say on that shortly,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.


April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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