Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell. (Peter McCully photo)

COVID-19: Parksville-Qualicum MLA Stilwell calls for more help for tourism industry

‘It’s no question been one of the hardest-hit sectors in this pandemic’

As the provincial opposition critic for tourism, MLA Michelle Stilwell said she believes tourism-based businesses need more to get through the summer season.

“It’s no question been one of the hardest-hit sectors in this pandemic, there needs to be a clear path forward and I think the biggest thing I hear from the various businesses is how important it is for them to have working capital in order for them to remain solvent,” she said.

In her eyes, it looks like a combination of more money and more streamlined information. She said things like deferring taxes isn’t helpful for businesses that might make next to nothing all summer.

“So deferring your taxes until September doesn’t solve any problems – what they need is grants and loans that are sort of low-interest or possibly a hardship grant, or something like that that can help them with their revenues to overcome the impacts that they’re seeing,” she said.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island wilderness tourism operator optimistic despite business dip

Stilwell said she thinks another piece of the puzzle is a moratorium on evictions for commercial tenants.

“We’ve done that for the home renters, but commercial tenants need the same kind of flexibility,” she said.

Other than that, she said she thinks there should be more direct information to tourism businesses.

“When the province is recommending to not open up to Albertans when an Albertan calls to make a booking – is a tourism operator supposed to say ‘no, I can’t take your business’?” she said. “When they’re struggling and they need any business they can get – what are we telling people?”

Ultimately, Stilwell said the industry needs to brace for a long road of recovery. Although restrictions may ease, people’s approach to travelling will change permanently.

“It’s going to take time for people to feel comfortable and confident travelling again and doing any kind of tourism,” she said. “It’s impacted the psychology of people.”

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