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B.C. budget provides $25 million in new money for tourism

Industry advocates hopeful that more money will be available if restrictions ramp up
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Tourism Industry Association of B.C. CEO Walt Judas stands atop the Wall Centre in Vancouver

The B.C. government said in today's budget that it is earmarking $25 million of new money for the tourism sector in the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Industry advocates, however, say tourism businesses may be able to access other pots of money.

If the government invokes more restrictions on the sector in order to deal with future COVID-19 strains, it will make more money available to tourism business owners, predicted Tourism Industry Association of B.C. CEO Walt Judas.

The $25 million that B.C. has designated for the tourism sector is a tiny part of the $74.013 billion in operational spending that the government estimates it will conduct in the 2022-23 fiscal year, with a deficit of $5.461 billion.

If tighter restrictions need to be put in place, or if other emergencies happen, the province could dip into a $2 billion contingency fund to add more funding for tourism, he said. 

"Should things take a turn for the worse, or regress, then the province would look at further measures, such as the COVID-19 Closure Relief Grant, which would be in place if restrictions are required," Judas told BIV. 

"For those businesses that are impacted, perhaps there would be another version of the Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant. It really depends on the scenario on whether that money would be accessed as there are no specifics on if or when or how the province would provide that money to the tourism sector."

Judas said the $25 million is in addition to $50 million earmarked for tourism in the fiscal year that ends on March 31. Some of the money for tourism operators in the 2022-23 fiscal year had already been promised.

Victoria's habit has been to make multiple announcements to dribble out funding for the sector. Earlier this month, for example, the province announced that its Business Events and Conferences Restart Fund will provide up to $5 million in the fiscal year that ends March 31, and another $3 million in the 2022-23 fiscal year, to cities' destination management organizations, such as Destination Vancouver.

Meeting venue operators can then apply to destination management organizations to receive grants from that money.

Victoria also said earlier this month that it is earmarking a total of $1.3 million to a different fund that will pay human resources specialists across the province this year and next. That means that in total, the province announced $9.3 million in new funding for the tourism sector in early February. 

News in January included the government promising to provide Indigenous Tourism BC with $3.7 million in funding

Judas said he was not sure exactly how much of the $50 million for tourism in the 2021-22 fiscal year is left to be committed, but he said that anything not yet announced would be announced by the end of March. 

That $50 million in 2021-22 was in addition to other spending on the BC Tourism Task Force, and various other initiatives, such as community tourism projects and infrastructure. 

Judas said other money that he saw in today's budget included an allocation of money for Emergency Management BC, which readies the province to deal with disasters. 

He said tourism destination marketers may be able to access some of that funding in order to develop emergency management frameworks to deal with climate change-related events. 

gkorstrom@biv.com

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