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B.C.'s tourism sector calls for more provincial aid to get through pandemic

Last Updated Dec 10, 2020 at 5:21 pm PST

FILE: Downtown Vancouver is seen here at night from the air on Jan. 18, 2019. (Source: Riley Phillips/NEWS 1130)

B.C.'s struggling tourism sector has a list of needs from the province

The sector is going to need double the money and then some from the province to make it through the pandemic

Ahead of B.C.'s election, the province appointed a task force to detail priorities what the sector wanted

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s struggling tourism sector is going to need provincial assistance money to start flowing quickly to stay afloat, as health officials continue to advise against non-essential travel.

Ahead of B.C.’s election, the province appointed a task force to detail what the sector wanted, and seven recommendations came back. The sector has requested more money to keep businesses from going under.

To start, the industry wants the government to double the $50 million put aside for support. On top of that, it’s requesting $95 million in emergency funding.

RELATED: B.C.’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry could take years to recover from COVID-19: association

Scott Benton, executive director of the Wildnerness Tourism Association of B.C., says the $50 million the province has put on the table is a drop in the bucket.

“These discussions with government are going on. They’re rolling out this initial package. We’re hoping they can augment that, so it’s a bit of a wait and see,” he says. “But it needs to come fast if it’s going to save some businesses.”

He notes tourism is one of B.C.’s top three industries and employs hundreds of thousands of people.

RELATED: B.C. premier offers little sympathy to would-be holiday travellers trying to get refunds

“The biggest challenge with 50 million, is the industry is very large. So I haven’t seen the revised criteria that they’re using for the distribution of the funds. It makes it a challenge to know where it’s going to go or what criteria you have to meet to access it,” Benton says.

Current programs, like emergency loans, don’t work for many businesses that don’t want more debt on their plate, Benton says

In the long term, the tourism industry wants plans to allow people to travel and feel safe traveling as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Minister Melanie Mark says she will lobby the government for the additional money.

“There are seven recommendations and I don’t want to say which one will be first, but we’re going to try to do as much as we can, as quickly as we can.”