The province’s tourism industry is calling on senior governments to establish a fund to help its operators deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
The Tourism Industry Association of B.C. is asking for immediate government intervention to prevent what it calls a “complete collapse” of the visitor economy.
“We know that many businesses have already cut staff, with more layoffs expected this week. While some tourism operators have cash reserves to remain open for the time being, it won’t be long before they close down permanently,” said Alroy Chan, chairman of the association. “Others are shuttering their businesses immediately. It’s a dire situation until we receive some help from senior levels of government.”
The organization noted the industry is taking the brunt of economic hardship during the outbreak, with flights, hotel bookings, conferences and events being cancelled, along with closures of major resorts such as Whistler-Blackcomb.
What are currently millions of dollars in losses could turn into billions unless senior governments provide some form of financial relief to help businesses survive, the association said in a statement.
“Other than health, virtually no other sector has been affected to the degree the tourism industry has. Many people’s livelihoods are at stake. Good paying, full-time jobs, entry-level positions for students, and everything in between are evaporating with each passing day,” said association chief executive Walt Judas. “And once a business ceases to operate, we may never see it resurface. That affects the long-term prospects for the industry, well after this crisis concludes.”
Tourism in B.C. generates as much as $19 billion in revenue annually through its more than 19,000 businesses, which employ more than 330,000 people. The organization has said it would like to see the federal government waive the seven-day waiting period to collect employment insurance for temporarily laid-off employees, and extend the temporary layoff maximum beyond 13 weeks, given the unpredictability of the crisis.
“Never before have we experienced such a quick and dramatic drop in visitation from both international and regional tourists,” said Barrett Fisher, chief executive of Tourism Whistler. “The impact to small and large businesses is significant. If we don’t receive immediate assistance, both our short and long-term tourism viability is in serious jeopardy.”