In this Sept. 25, 2018 photo, visitors walk near Canada Place, a tourism and convention center in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

In this Sept. 25, 2018 photo, visitors walk near Canada Place, a tourism and convention center in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

OPINION: B.C.’s tourism and hospitality sector desperately needs a restart plan

Pandemic’s trickle-down impact is particularly large and insidious at a local and community level

The pandemic has hit tourism, one of B.C.’s largest sectors, historically employing 300,000 workers and contributing over $8 billion in GDP, hardest among all provincial industries.

Given that tourism has on average generated $1.7 billion in annual tax revenue and contributed more to GDP than any primary resource sector, it is devastating news for our provincial economy that many tourism operators have been down 90 per cent in revenue for more than a year.

This is made worse by the termination of tens of thousands of tourism and hospitality jobs, impacting families at a social and economic level in every community and region across our province.

Because tourism weaves through all communities and regions of our province, the pandemic’s trickle-down impact is particularly large and insidious. B.C.’s visitor economy provides revenue that makes the difference between sustainable operations and bankruptcy not only for many restaurants, hotels, transportation providers, and retailers, but also for myriad other non-hospitality subsectors, suppliers and trades. In turn, B.C. residents are able to enjoy many products and experiences that are supported by tourism dollars.

With the border remaining closed for a second year and only a limited domestic market to draw from, B.C.’s tourism and hospitality industry is facing a similar dismal forecast for 2021.

To make matters worse, we now see international operators cancelling 2022 tours because B.C. cannot adequately define its safe restart conditions to allow the visitor economy to fully reopen.

Next year’s sales season is already upon us — a period when tour operators normally make large cash commitments to secure air seats, hotels, meals, and attraction tickets. It is concerning to see our long-standing customers book business with competitor destinations because they see certainty in their restart plans and appreciate that positive signal towards tourism.

Other countries are quickly acting on this realization to publish tourism restart plans, the purpose of which is to provide their industry with a framework to ensure the safe resumption of leisure travel.

Vaccination rates are rising, and our sector believes now is the appropriate time for the province to urgently act to help save B.C.’s pre-eminent position as a world class destination. Collaboration with the federal government and industry leaders to establish Canada’s tourism restart program will be a make-or-break effort for our industry. Otherwise, 40 years of infrastructure development and sustainable tourism momentum will be lost.

Through loss of jobs and tax revenue, few British Columbians will escape some level of impact caused by the growing devastation that B.C.’s tourism sector is suffering.

B.C.’s tourism industry has stepped up to support our health authorities and now, to remain competitive against other destinations and save many skilled jobs, it is critical that government and industry work together to devise a plan that safely restarts domestic leisure travel and ensures, when it is safe to do so, the smooth opening of our border. Cornerstones of the recommended plan include:

• Definition of milestones and conditions that must be reached before travel restrictions are lifted and borders are opened, as well as operational criteria for post-opening. As the tourism season is short and every day of revenue is critical, such a plan will allow businesses to efficiently use current down time to plan and make restart investments.

• Assuming that COVID will be with us for many years, implementation of a vaccination verification process that synchronizes with other countries. Non-vaccinated travellers can then be streamed through a safety channel using the same effective COVID procedures now in use by airlines. This will allow equitable travel access for all global citizens while keeping Canadians safe.

• Financial support during the critical restart phase. Cash-starved tourism companies need to invest in inventory and staff and are therefore most vulnerable at this time. Critical measures to achieve this include tailored liquidity measures and workforce support in the form of continuing wage subsidies.

It’s not just the 2021 season that is in jeopardy. The indicators for 2022 are red, so now is the time to work together to develop a tourism-specific resumption plan that signals B.C. understands the planning needs of its wholesale and retail customers and is ready to resume tourism as soon as it is safe to do so.

To provide needed confidence, industry needs this plan next week, when Canada’s national wholesale marketplace, Rendez-vous, is virtually held.

For the tourism industry, this is a significant event because it connects international travel buyers with Canadian tourism professionals to create critical connections that will support the recovery and resilience of the tourism sector in the months and years ahead.

This will give our industry a fair chance to rally behind government efforts and ensure B.C.’s tourism economy starts strong, starts safely, and does not die of exhaustion on the starting line.

Chief Clarence Louie is CEO of Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation. Nancy Stibbard is owner and CEO of The Capilano Group. John Wilson is president and CEO of The Wilson’s Group of Companies. Mandy Farmer is president and CEO of Accent Inns. Brian McCutcheon is founder/owner of ROAM Adventures. Victoria Olmstead is founder of Elisi Spa & Wilderness Resort.

Just Posted

Terry Mazzei next to a truck after it was struck by lightning, with him inside, on Wednesday afternoon, June 9. He walked away from the incident without injury and the truck sustained only mild damage; a blown front tire and newly broken gas gauge. (Wendy Mazzei photo)
Nanoose Bay man walks away unscathed after lightning strike

VIDEO: ‘We like to think that his dad was watching over him’

This young fledgling white raven was spotted in the Coombs area on May 16. (Mike Yip photo)
Expert says 2 sets of parents producing rare white ravens in mid-Island area

One of the iconic birds is currently recovering at wildlife centre after being rescued

Flowers planted along Highway 19 in downtown Parksville. (Submitted photo)
City of Parksville plants more than 15,000 annual bedding plants

Residents encouraged to take flower photos and post to social media

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

The Parksville Civic and Technology Centre. Offices will re-open to the general public on June 21. (PQB News file photo)
Parksville’s city hall offices to open again on June 21

Offices will resume pre-COVID hours of operation

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system also takes Indigenous children from their families, communities and nations

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

The courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo man, already in jail, found guilty of sexual abuse of sons

Man previously sentenced for sexual interference involving girl in Nanaimo

Most Read