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Industry worries how B.C. hotels will survive despite loans, grants for hospitality sector

Last Updated Sep 18, 2020 at 6:29 am PDT

FILE - Downtown Vancouver is seen here from the NEWS 1130 Air Patrol in November of 2019. (Riley Phillips for NEWS 1130)

There are concerns about the future of many B.C. hotels amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Concerns come despite province announcing plans for $100 million for tourism sector in B.C.

Many conference centres, big-city hotels sit idle with a lack of tourism amid the health crisis

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Despite an announcement that the province intends to spend $100 million to support tourism-related businesses, there is grave concern over how hotels, particularly in urban centres, are going to survive.

“We are pleased to see that the tourism and hospitality sector has been recognized in the provincial government’s announcement surrounding economic relief,” says Ingrid Jarrett, the CDO of the BC Hotel Association.

However, she says fears linger over the future, especially when conference centres and other big-city hotels sit idle.

“How does that allocation of funds work so that most of the industry makes it through the winter? There is very little hope that the domestic or any international markets will open up,” she points out.

That’s why her organization has been lobbying for certain breaks for struggling hotels, which were not included in Thursday’s announcement.

“Our industry really believed that government was going to step forward and encourage municipalities by way of providing a fund at the provincial level whereby hotels could apply for property tax relief,” she says.

“There was no acknowledgement about property tax relief or BC Hydro relief. There are small business loans. Business could apply that grant to their property tax,” Jarrett notes, while also insisting the grants would come nowhere near the amount needed to cover an entire property tax bill.

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She hopes the discussion about possible property relief will be taken up by municipalities, which are gathering – virtually – for their annual meeting next week.

Part of the recovery plan has hospitality workers being retrained to work in long-term care. Jarrett stresses those employees could still have jobs in the tourism sector with the government’s support.

“If there were relief measures to ensure that businesses could stay solvent, they would hire back their employees in a heartbeat. But they can’t if the government doesn’t focus on actually regenerating the economy.”

Jarrett says she looks forward to the government rolling out other aspects of their recovery plan in the coming months.

Other corners of the hospitality sector are expressing their appreciation for government support at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a very good start. We appreciate that the Province recognized the needs of the tourism and hospitality sector with specific measures to help address major challenges including liquidity,” says Walt Judas of the Tourism Industry Association of BC.

“Restaurants Canada appreciates everything that the Province has done to step up and provide a lifeline to foodservice businesses struggling to survive the past six months of the pandemic,” says Mark von Schellwitz of Restaurants Canada.