Resorts across the province, including Revelstoke Mountain Resort, have been temporarily shut down due to COVID-19 concerns. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Tourism industry advocate calls for emergency fund in wake of COVID-19 cancellations

Claims losses amount to hundreds of millions of dollars already

The Tourism Industry Association of B.C. is calling for government intervention to prevent a collapse of the visitor economy as a result of COVID-19.

With massive travel cancellations that include flights, hotel bookings, conferences, events, and closures to resorts such as Whistler-Blackcomb, Silver Star, Revelstoke Mountain Resort and others, losses amount to hundreds of millions of dollars already and will soon represent billions of dollars unless senior governments provide some form of financial relief to help businesses survive, said a news release from the association.

READ MORE: Canada to close borders to most foreigners, but not to U.S., to slow spread of COVID-19

“We know that many businesses have already cut staff with more layoffs expected this week,” said Alroy Chan, chair of the association. “While some tourism operators have cash reserves to remain open for the time being, it won’t be long before they close down permanently. Others are shuttering their businesses immediately. It’s a dire situation until we receive some help from senior levels of government.”

READ MORE: Revelstoke Mountain Resort closing due to COVID-19 fears

The association is looking to senior levels of government to establish an emergency tourism contingency fund to help operators mitigate the impact of the crisis. It also calling for other measures to help businesses, such as temporarily suspending land tenure fees and employer health taxes, as well as providing loan payment relief.

The association is also recommending that the federal government waive the seven-day waiting period to collect employment insurance for temporarily laid-off employees and extending the temporary lay-off maximum beyond 13 weeks.

READ MORE: Study says few workers have paid leave, qualify for EI if off job due to COVID-19

Tourism in British Columbia generates upwards of $19 billion in revenues annually through more than 19,000 (small) businesses that employ over 330,000 people. The industry has enjoyed record-setting growth in recent years and has become the province’s third-largest business sector.


 

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