(Scott Carrier photo)

B.C. tourism industry seeks $680M to rebuild after pandemic

Tourism Industry Association of B.C. says the funds could save as many as 100,000 jobs this year alone

B.C.’s tourism and hospitality sector believes it should receive more than one-third of a $1.5-billion COVID-19 recovery package pledged to the province by the federal government.

A statement from the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. said a coalition of more than 19,000 tourism and hospitality businesses believes the sector should be allocated $680 million to help ease the impacts of the novel coronavirus.

The association said the funds could save as many as 100,000 jobs this year alone and provide immediate assistance to businesses hardest hit by restrictions on travel and limits on gatherings.

It said data from 2018 shows tourism and hospitality brought $20.4 billion in direct visitor spending to B.C. and generated billions more in goods produced and services provided.

Association chair Vivek Sharma said existing stimulus packages aimed at overall economic recovery are helpful, but they aren’t enough to revive a sector in which 300,000 jobs were affected at the height of the pandemic.

Sharma said the association is proposing a three-part recovery starting with $475 million for no-interest loans or other supports to businesses with the potential to return to profitability over the next 18 months.

A further $190 million would help tourism businesses adapt their operations to health and safety requirements, while $15 million would support the accommodation, attractions, transportation, food services and retail industries as they rebuild shattered supply chains.

The association, which presented its proposal to the B.C. government last week, also recommends an industry-government committee to finalize funding and monitor program outcomes.

“For decades, tourism has been a strong and consistent economic engine for the province and significant source of employment in every B.C. community,” Sharma said in the statement.

“What we are asking for is a return on the investments the tourism and hospitality sector has made to the provincial and national economy over those decades.”

Tourism Minister Lisa Beare declined to set a dollar figure for how much of the province’s stimulus funding she believes should go to the tourism sector.

She said only that the provincial government is working closely with the sector and will incorporate its feedback along with more than 10,000 responses from the public on how B.C. should spend the $1.5 billion earmarked for economic recovery.

The province has already worked with the industry to expand patios, cut retail liquor mark-ups for the hospitality sector and create a job matching network for tourism industry personnel who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, she said.

“We’re going to keep listening to the sector and what their priorities are,” Beare said.

The Canadian Press

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