Tourist-related businesses have taken the worst effects of B.C.’s COVID-19 control measures, and they are asking for $680 million of Finance Minister Carole James’ $1.5 billion recovery fund to help them survive.
In a submission to the B.C. government released July 21, the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. notes that tourism is “the only industry almost entirely based on the discretionary movement of people,” with most of the sector shut down by federal and provincial government orders.
“The only way we can prevent generations of lost economic activity, jobs and tax revenues is by acting decisively now, with innovative and creative solutions that recognize the importance of this sector, which is the face and brand of British Columbia to the world and one of the strongest drivers of the B.C. economy,” said Vivek Sharma, chair of the TIABC.
James has indicated that the $1.5 billion recovery fund, part of the $5 billion borrowed to deal with the pandemic this spring, will be allocated in September. An online survey looking for public input wrapped up July 21, and business sector meetings will carry on for the rest of the summer.
TIABC is proposing a $475 million “working capital recovery grant” as the main strategy, to help tourism businesses return to profitability within 18 months. It would include low- or no-interest loans with extended repayment periods to bridge businesses as out-of-province tourism resumes on an uncertain timetable.
An additional $190 million is requested for adaptation costs, to help deliver tourism experiences with virus protection. Another $15 million is requested for B.C.-focused supply chains for accommodation, attractions, transportation, food services and retail.
TIABC reports the tourism sector had revenue of $20.4 billion in 2018, with 19,300 businesses and direct employment of 160,000 people.