As tourism organizations across Canada focus their messaging on ‘open soon’ for members whose communities are successfully flattening the curve, leaders of the largest associations representing tourism, hospitality, and accommodation are asking for specific support to help keep them alive.
“Measures such as the wage subsidy program, various loan and rent relief packages have all been helpful to a degree, but stop short of helping operators with the biggest challenge around liquidity,” said Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia (TIABC). “Businesses have ongoing expenses, but without visitors for the foreseeable future and no revenues, few have any cash reserves to meet their current expenses, let alone have enough to begin operating again.”
Tourism industry shutdown has a hugely negative impact
According to a release from the BC Hospitality Association, the $20.4 billion tourism and hospitality sector was effectively shut down when borders closed and both residents and visitors were told to stay home as COVID-19 unfolded in British Columbia. Since mid-March, thousands of hotels, restaurants, pubs, bars, attractions, and other sectors of the visitor economy have been closed, and many are not expected to re-open unless further government aid is realized.
“B.C.’s hospitality industry was hit first, hit hardest, and will be among the last to recover from this crisis,” said Jeff Guignard, Executive Director of BC’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE BC). “We’re B.C.’s third-largest private sector employer, and the very survival of our businesses and the jobs they create now depend on urgent leadership and bold action from our government partners.”
Industry leaders call on government for support
The collective of leaders from ABLE BC, BC Hotel Association, Restaurants Canada, TIABC, and the Metro Vancouver Tourism and Hospitality Response and Recovery Task Force say more help is critical. They are calling on various levels of government to augment existing measures by:
- Providing a working capital grant to allow tourism, hospitality, and accommodation businesses to re-open their doors and/or prevent permanent closures.
- Providing a temporary moratorium on evictions for commercial tenants, akin to the residential measures introduced by the Province.
- Adjusting the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program to ensure that it is more broadly applicable to help businesses that do not meet the CECRA criteria, but who have experienced serious impacts to their sales.
- Suspending property tax increases and penalties for late payments, as well as any local fees including business licenses.
- Extending the temporary layoff timelines to align with the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) extension of August 29, 2020.
- Extending BC Hydro relief to large and commercial businesses by allowing hotels who are commercial BC Hydro clients the same relief measures as other small and medium size businesses.
“The scope and scale of measures taken to limit face to face interactions and restrict both international and domestic travel, while appropriate for public health, have had a profound and debilitating effect on the viability of the tourism and hospitality industry, particularly in the short- and medium-term,” said Ted Lee, Acting CEO of Tourism Vancouver and Chair of the Metro Vancouver Tourism and Hospitality Industry Response and Recovery Task Force. “While government attention is starting to turn to longer-term recovery planning, without further immediate assistance, there will be no longer term for much of our industry, as many small businesses will not likely survive.”