VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — As B.C.’s tourism sector heads into an uncertain fall and winter, a member of a new provincial task force for the industry says $50 million in government funding is a “good start.”
The Tourism Task Force was announced Friday, and will be charged with “reigniting B.C.’s tourism sector.” Fifty million dollars has been earmarked to implement recommendations made by the 10-person panel, set to be delivered in a report to the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture by Dec. 31, 2020.
Task force member Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of BC, says its terms of reference haven’t been set.
But he does predict it will recommend further funding to help the ailing industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We viewed the announcement as a very good start. The premier and Minister James had intimated that it was a start, in other words, an initial investment to help our industry through this very difficult time,” he says.
“The industry knows that the work is just beginning. We need help for our businesses now but the longer this goes, of course, we’ll need further help”
Judas says the fall and winter are slower seasons, but without the infusion of revenue typically generated over the summer many won’t be able to weather the effects of the pandemic much longer.
“When you have attractions that have generated only about 10 per cent of their seasonal revenues, that is not enough to sustain them through the fall and winter months. Some have closed or are contemplating closing until next year if they survive at all,” he says.
“We know that many of the larger businesses have already lost millions of dollars, they don’t have the cash reserves to stay in business for the foreseeable future, particularly another year. That’s just not on the table for many of these businesses. Similarly, small businesses have depleted their cash reserves and they are relying on some of this government support to sustain them over the medium-term but they’re going to need a whole lot more.”
Judas notes the industry has been asking for $680 million, an amount he thinks is “palatable” given that the sector generates more than $20 billion a year for the province when it’s in full swing. Although he says an exact estimate on how much money it will take to support the industry isn’t possible, it will cost “hundreds of millions.”
He anticipates businesses will need government support for at least 12 – 18 months.
“Until such time that travel resumes again, people have confidence in travelling, and that our industry is at least at 75 per cent of normal operating revenues.”