British Columbia

B.C.'s visitor economy faces collapse without government relief, tourism association warns

The provincial and federal governments must step in with financial relief to prevent a complete collapse of the visitor economy, a tourism industry group in B.C. is warning, saying that businesses are losing millions of dollars due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

'Virtually empty hotels and restaurants' across province as Canada tightens borders to slow spread of COVID-19

Passengers walks through the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport on March 13. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The provincial and federal governments must step in with financial relief to prevent a complete collapse of the visitor economy, a tourism industry group in B.C. is warning, saying that businesses are losing millions of dollars due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Tourism Industry Association of B.C. said about $19 billion in revenue a year is generated through 19,000 tourism-focused businesses in the province, but border restrictions and other measures introduced to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus mean many of those businesses may not survive.

The organization wants an emergency contingency fund to help operators mitigate the impact of the pandemic, and suggests senior levels of government temporarily suspend land tenure fees and employer health taxes, and provide loan payment relief.

Association CEO Walt Judas said tourism operators will need help not only through the crisis period but also with recovery efforts in the aftermath of the pandemic.

"We are experiencing massive layoffs in the industry, cancellations, virtually empty hotels and restaurants and there is no way for small businesses to sustain themselves without some kind of financial assistance," said Judas.

He said the industry is the third largest business sector in the province.

Typically, businesses on the West Coast would be making money at this time from cruise ship passengers and international visitors to conferences, outdoor resorts and other events.

On Monday, measure put in place by the federal government restricted travellers from outside Canada and the United States from entering the country.

The Whistler Blackcomb resort, a huge tourist draw, has closed for the season. (Denis Dossmann/CBC)

The B.C. Hotel Association said its members are facing huge layoffs as people back out of bookings.

"Hotels throughout B.C. are experiencing cancellations of up to 80 per cent of business on the books," CEO Ingrid Jarrett said.

On Tuesday, the Whistler Blackcomb resort, which attracts two million visitors a year from around the world, said it was closing its ski hills for the remainder of the season. 

Judas said tourism operators are evaluating the situation daily and he has not come up with a dollar figure for relief efforts. But he said the effects will be wide-reaching.

"There won't be an area within the entire province for tourism that is unscathed," he said.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now