VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There is growing concern within B.C.’s tourism industry with the possibility of further COVID-19 restrictions on the horizon.
The sector has been hard-hit by the pandemic, with closures and travel restrictions preventing many from visiting the province during peak summer months.
It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that, even without further restrictions, could take years to bounce back.
“We’re already seeing operators faced with cancellation, people who were planning trips to other parts of the province have cancelled their hotel reservations and that has a trickle down effect to restaurants, attractions, other activity areas. So, no question this is a concern,” Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of BC, tells NEWS 1130.
Those in BC's multi-billion dollar tourism sector are stressed and scared about the possibility of further #COVID19 measures (if case numbers don't go down soon.) They say the rebuilding process could last until 2025. My story on @NEWS1130 https://t.co/G9mlEdUgrs
— Sonia Aslam (@SoniaSAslam) November 11, 2020
Judas says despite hopeful news of a possible COVID-19 vaccine on the way, the outlook is still less than ideal for the tourism industry.
“Whether it’s 2021, 2022, or 2023, the industry will be on a gradual increase if all things go well. But there’s no guarantee of that either,” he says, adding many operators are stressed and hoping for any kind of business.
“The threat of further closures, or shutdowns, or further restrictions on travel puts them in an even more difficult situation than they already are, so there’s desperation within the industry and we have to figure out a way forward with government.”
In September, Judas, who is also a member of B.C.’s Tourism Task Force, told NEWS 1130 the industry would need “hundreds of millions” of dollars in support to weather the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He’s renewing his call for government help, saying some of the money already promised to help the tourism sector is still being distributed and decided on.
“Clearly, financial assistance is still required. That is something we’ve called for for several months, and something we’ll continue to call for to help the industry to the other side of COVID-19. At the same time, there are some measures that government can help with in the interim, including the key messaging to people on how they travel, where they travel, what they can expect when they travel, and that includes the health and safety measures that in place by businesses,” Judas explains.
“But also, giving people confidence in a sense that they are able to travel, provided that they take responsibility for some of the actions to protect their family members and friends in places and communities they visit.”
Despite the bleak outlook, Judas says he and others remain cautiously optimistic.
From government assistance, including grants and loans, to reopening the border to international travellers, circumstances allowing, Judas says there are number of things need to happen now for the future to be positive.
Initial estimates suggested it would take the provincial tourism industry 12 to 18 months to recover, he says. Now, that window is more likely three to five years.
Meanwhile, Tourism Vancouver Island tells NEWS 1130 there have been some people who’ve cancelled their plans to travel to the island recently. And although, the group is worried, it is trying to stay optimistic the current order is only in place for two weeks and not extended past that. It’s also telling people from Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health what the rules are and that it’s on them to follow public health regulations.
-With files from Lisa Steacy and Paul James