Today I asked the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture if the provincial government has a strategic, sector specific plan to support BC’s tourism sector. Tourism operators across the province have been significantly impacted by the pandemic and a large increase in local tourism will not make up lost revenue.
GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR TOURISM INDUSTRY
The cruise season is cancelled. The borders remain closed, and international travel will be limited for the foreseeable future. The B.C. government is encouraging summer staycations to support the tourism sector devastated by COVID-19. People should get out and explore our beautiful province, as long as they follow the provincial health guidelines and restrictions and restrictions posted by First Nations.
However, the situation is bleak. One in five tourism businesses face bankruptcy. A report from Destination B.C. titled Value of Tourism: 2007 to 2017 shows that as of 2017, British Columbians made up 53 percent of the visitors but only just about 29 percent of the spending in the tourism sector. Even if we double the number of British Columbians touring locally, we would only be at just above half the regular spending.
My question is to the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture. We know that a large increase in local tourism will not make up for lost revenue, and yet Destination B.C. is set to spend record numbers on marketing local tourism this summer. As this will not close the gap, what other measures are coming that will ensure tourism operators have the lifeline they need to not close their doors forever?
Hon. L. Beare:
I want to thank the leader of the Green Party for this question. Our government knows and understands that the tourism sector has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The tourism industry understands and knows that a public health response and us keeping the curve flat is key to our recovery here so that we can continue to explore every corner of our province. So we have been working very closely with the tourism industry to hear what supports they need, as we all work together on B.C.’s recovery plan.
For example, in May, we provided $10 million to 59 community destination marketing organizations to help them welcome guests across B.C. once again. We’ve worked with the federal government and encouraged and advocated for programs from their government as well, including the $1.5 million to support B.C.’s tourism resiliency programs and Indigenous tourism businesses.
It’s really important to note for the member that British Columbians have worked so hard to follow Dr. Henry’s advice. That has allowed us to be in phase 3 so that people can travel again across the province. We know that’s not a silver bullet — having British Columbians be able to travel — but we are working with the tourism sector to address their needs and to have those conversations on what they need as we move towards recovery.
Leader Third Party on a supplemental.
For many tourism businesses, the 2020 year is already lost. Butchart Gardens, for example, in my riding — their revenue has plummeted. And they estimate that the B.C. source market would only add a few percentage points to help them out.
For the tourism sector, this is a marathon that they’re facing, and they need more help than they’re getting. Industry leaders have been crystal clear. They need liquidity rescue and payroll support to retain staff and stay afloat. Otherwise, we are likely to see many tourism businesses in our province fail. COVID-19 has decimated the ministry’s strategic framework and Destination B.C.’s strategic plan. For tourism operators to keep their doors open, they need a plan that gives them certainty over the next 18 months and into the future.
My question is, again, for the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture. The summer season is over for most operators. Advertising is too little, too late. When will we see updated plans from the provincial government and Crown corp. that will address the supply-side issues and put a sector-specific plan in place that will help tourism operators stay in business over the next few years?
Hon. L. Beare:
Our government has been listening. And we have been working very, very closely and working regularly with groups like the Tourism Industry Association of B.C., the regional destination marketing organizations, sector associations and businesses directly, who’ve asked us for a range of supports.
We’ve provided a number of these supports, such as the sector asked for a program encouraging workers who’ve lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic to help them find work. So we partnered with go2 HR to help match workers with other sectors, including the agritourism.
The sector asked if we could help provide support and extend a one-time grant to sector associations. So we know how important these organizations are for the tourism industry’s recovery, and Destination B.C. provided $400,000 to 15 sector organizations.
We’re going to continue working very closely with them. We have ongoing dialogue as part of our recovery plan that the Premier and the Deputy Premier laid out in the past weeks. We’re going to keep working closely with the sector. We’ve been taking actions to provide the right supports for this important sector. We’re going to take action to make sure that we provide the supports they need moving forward towards recovery.
Thank you to the member for asking such great questions for such an important sector here in B.C.