Yukon announces COVID-19 aid for tourism operators, restaurants, non-profits

Yukon's tourism minister announced funding for tourism operators and non-profits on Monday, saying they want to help struggling businesses survive the winter.

Funding will help businesses 'survive through winter,' government says

The Yukon government says the new funding will help struggling businesses break even. (Steve Silva/CBC)

Yukon's tourism minister announced $1.3 million in aid for tourism businesses and non-profits on Monday, saying they want to help struggling operators survive the winter.

Tourism Minister Jeanie McLean announced "non-accommodation" businesses can get $20,000 per month, for a maximum of $60,000. Tourism operators, as well as food and beverage establishments, are eligible if they rely on visitors for at least 60 per cent of their profits.

The territory also earmarked $300,000 for culture and tourism non-profit organizations. Non-profits that are projecting 10 per cent deficits can receive up to $20,000 each.

The funding will help businesses "survive through winter" and break even, said a government press release.

"We are not through the pandemic yet," Maclean said.

She estimated up to 60 businesses could be eligible for the funding, which totals $1 million.

Yukon's tourism sector has been battered by low visitor numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Meanwhile, the territory recently ended the Yukon-B.C. "bubble," which allowed visitors to travel freely between the two regions.

Tourism association applauds announcement

Neil Hartling, chair of the Tourism Industry Association, said he was pleased with the announcement.

"This should bring everybody up to a sustainable, survivable level," he told CBC News.

Hartling said some businesses were "falling through the cracks" with previous funding packages that mainly covered fixed costs.

There are 400 tourism businesses in Yukon, he said, employing 4,000 people.

Hartling estimated that less than 10 percent of Yukon businesses have closed during the pandemic, while a number have chosen to "hibernate" until conditions improve. 

Fewer tourists went hiking in Yukon this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Cristina Ramos Hernando)

The Yukon Bureau of Statistics last looked at the impact of COVID-19 on business in May, but they're expected to publish an update Wednesday.

Opposition party critiques 60% threshold

The announcement drew criticism from the opposition Yukon Party.

Leader Currie Dixon questioned the plans for the rest of the $15 million in funding, and accused the government of "trickling out" funding for political purposes.

Dixon also said it seemed "arbitrary" and "difficult" for businesses to calculate whether 60 per cent of their revenue comes from tourism.

"Given the fact there are zero tourists coming to the territory, and so few Yukoners are going out themselves for dinner or going out for a drink and patronizing these businesses, they're facing a real challenge," Dixon said.

"We think that's an odd stipulation. And we'd like to know how the minister arrived at that inclusion and that amount."

The government says the funds announced Monday are part of a total $15 million in promised tourism relief over three years. Most of that funding has yet to be announced.

In October the government announced $2.88 million for hotels and other accommodation businesses.

In order to qualify for the newly-announced relief, businesses must have maxed-out their eligibility in Yukon Business Relief Program and CanNor's Northern Business Relief Fund.

A third party will administer the funding for non-profits, the government says.

Written by Laura Howells, with files from Philippe Morin


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