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Tourism assoc. wants Yukon gov't to provide more help for businesses

An association representing tourism business owners in Yukon says it wants the territorial government to offer owners more financial help, meet with the group more to come up with solutions, and, in order to allow in more tourists, look into possibly relaxing some self-isolation requirements.

Association says tourism businesses could shut down without more financial help

Blake Rogers is the executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon. He says the pandemic has put the tourism industry in an unprecedented crisis. (Steve Silva/CBC)

An association representing tourism business owners in Yukon says it wants the territorial government to offer owners more financial help, meet with the group more to come up with solutions, and, in order to allow in more tourists, look into possibly relaxing some self-isolation requirements.

Blake Rogers, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon (TIA), said at a news conference on Friday that the COVID-19 pandemic has put the tourism industry in an unprecedented crisis.

"We are looking at a potential complete collapse of the industry," he said.

The industry had a revenue of $468 million last year, and it would be a surprise if 2020's number reached half of that, Rogers said.

At the moment, tourists from outside of Yukon's bubble with British Columbia and the territories, have to self-isolate for two weeks.

Asking gov't to look into self-isolation rules

Rogers said it's unlikely that many tourists, of the ones willing to travel right now, would be up for visiting Yukon if they have to self-isolate when they get there and also when they return to their home jurisdictions.

So the association wants the government to look into how necessary self-isolation in this context is, considering that several other jurisdictions in Canada don't require it for travel within the country, and subsequently change it if there's a safe way to do so. 

Rogers said financial supports from governments in response to the pandemic have helped, but they're not enough.

The association wants the Yukon government to give additional money to tourism businesses. How much that would encompass, among other aspects of the request, is still being worked out.

"I wouldn't consider it a bailout, I'd consider an investment in keeping this industry going," Rogers said.

The association wants the money to start coming out within about a couple of months.

Jeanie Dendys is Yukon's minister of tourism and culture. (Karen Vallevand/CBC)

Rogers did not have an estimate for how much of a positive economic impact opening the bubble to the entire country would have on the industry.

"We need to have that conversation first to see if it's even a possibility," he said.

Jeanie Dendys, minister of tourism and culture, said a meeting between the government and TIA is planned for next week.

The territory's chief medical officer of health is also planning on meeting with the association next week, she said.

"We'll be considering opening to other jurisdictions as the evidence is provided," she said, adding that the government is working with a health framework to ensure it does things safely.

Dendys said she has worked with federal colleagues to ensure they understand the severity of the situation facing the industry.

The territorial government is working on a tourism recovery plan, and money for businesses is one of several things that will be considered, she said.

Teena Dickson is a co-owner of Dickson Outfitters and the owner of its division Whitehorse Who What Where Tours. (Steve Silva/CBC)

Teena Dickson, co-owner of Dickson Outfitters and owner of its division Whitehorse Who What Where Tours, said revenues are down 85 and 94 per cent, respectively, a decline felt especially hard as several staff members are family members.

"We've had to lay off our kids and tell them to go get other jobs outside of the industry," she said. "All we're doing is paying bills. We're exhausted, like many people."

Dickson, a member of TIA, said she supports the association's calls for looking into self-isolation rules.

Dickson said tourists from outside of the bubble are more likely to use her services, including her bus tours, than people from B.C. who might drive to the territory. Also, people from other territories, where it's relatively easy to see the northern lights, might not be as interested in her night tours for that.

"I honestly think, come March-April, if things don't turn around, yeah, we will close, definitely, this part of our operation," she said.

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