The Government of B.C. has announced further initiatives to support business recovery in the tourism industry.
The Tourism Recovery Initiatives Action Plan will allocate over $9.3 million over the next two years to business events and workforce support initiatives.
Within the Plan, the new Business Events and Conferences Restart Fund will provide up to $5 million in 2022 and up to $3 million in 2023 to help restart business travel.
The business events market is reporting 85-100% in lost revenue since the beginning of the pandemic.
Funding will be provided to city destination management organizations that were significantly involved in attracting and hosting business events, conferences and exhibitions before COVID-19 lockdowns.
Through this investment the Province hopes to generate economic activity by drawing international visitors, who tend to spend more and stay longer, and often travel to other smaller destinations once their business travel is complete.
On average, meetings and conference delegates spend 40-70% more than leisure travellers and international conference delegates spend up to four times more.
Restarting business events, says a media release, also provides greater economic benefits for the services that support the sector, such as food services, audio-visual companies, event rental companies, event planners, and transportation companies that will subsequently benefit from the return of large conferences to the province.
“The business events sector provides vital foundational business for all segments of the visitor economy, attracting the most lucrative association, educational and incentive customers, primarily in the off-peak season,” says Destination Greater Victoria CEO Paul Nursey.
“Because it is so lucrative, this is a highly competitive sector. This investment will get B.C. back into the competitive marketplace and will deliver very solid returns. Meetings and conferences are also catalytic in driving priority economic sectors, such as ocean marine and clean technology here in Greater Victoria by showcasing the work of our enterprises and post-secondary institutions. We are fired up to bid and win more than our fair share of conferences and events for Greater Victoria and supporting British Columbia’s recovery.”
To help address serious challenges in recruiting and retaining workers in tourism and hospitality, the Province is also investing in human resources support for this sector allocating more than $1.3 million to fund dedicated human resources specialists in five tourism regions for two years.
In partnership with the tourism industry’s human resources association, go2HR, these individuals will provide expert advice to tourism operators in each region, including workforce strategy, recruitment, onboarding, compensation, training, health and safety, and interpreting employment legislation.
The Tourism Recovery Initiatives Action Plan is described as B.C.’s comprehensive plan to support the survival, recovery and growth of the sector. The Province says support for marquee events, and tourism education and skills training will be announced soon.
Supporting Indigenous Tourism
The B.C. government’s latest announcement comes after their commitment last November to increase the existing $5 million Indigenous Tourism BC fund by another $3 million.
Launched in February 2021, the fund provides grants to Indigenous tourism businesses, including lodges and resorts, restaurants, outdoor adventure experiences, galleries and gift shops owned by Indigenous people. Recipients can use the funds to keep the lights on and pay rent or employee wages.
There are more than 480 Indigenous tourism businesses, within the 203 First Nations in British Columbia. Prior to the pandemic, Indigenous tourism was the fastest-growing sector of the tourism industry. It generated $705 million in direct gross domestic output and created 7,400 direct full-time jobs.
“These grants are reconciliation in action and support self-determination for Indigenous tourism businesses to showcase their territories, culture and people,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport. “Together with Indigenous Tourism BC, we are working to rebuild Indigenous-led tourism and return it to the thriving levels of growth we saw before the pandemic, resulting in a stronger future for everyone.”