BRITISH COLUMBIA – The Government of British Columbia is responding to the recommendations of the Tourism Task Force by creating a dedicated relief funding stream to quickly support people and businesses in BC’s tourism sector.
“This has been the most challenging year that people working in the tourism sector have ever faced, and while news about vaccines arriving in British Columbia give us reason to be hopeful, we aren’t through this storm yet,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport. “This dedicated relief funding for the tourism sector will help people get through these next few months so we can welcome visitors back to our beautiful province once it’s safe to do so.”
Within days of receiving the final report, the Province acted on the task force’s recommendations by committing $100 million in dedicated relief funding for the tourism sector. In addition, the Province is also allocating $5 million to Indigenous Tourism BC to administer relief grant funding targeted for Indigenous businesses.
Indigenous tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments of BC’s tourism industry. However, Indigenous businesses often face additional challenges that may impact their ability to recover, such as barriers to accessing financing and operating in remote locations where connectivity and business services may be limited. In the spirit of reconciliation, government will work in partnership with Indigenous Tourism BC in the weeks ahead on an Indigenous-led funding program specifically designed for Indigenous tourism operators.
“This year has tested the resilience of the tourism industry. It has been a time for the sector to come together. We thank the Province for its ongoing partnership to see Indigenous Tourism BC through to the other side of the impacts of the pandemic,” said Brenda Baptiste, chair, Indigenous Tourism BC. “Indigenous Tourism BC continues to support Indigenous peoples, tourism, business and community through dedicated relief funds. We are committed to a stronger Indigenous tourism sector than ever before.”
The $100-million dedicated relief funding for the tourism sector will be delivered through the existing Small and Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant program. Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, has met with tourism and hospitality stakeholders, including members of the Tourism Task Force.
“We know how deeply businesses have been impacted by the restrictions in place to keep our communities safe from COVID-19,” Kahlon said. “Working with business owners and stakeholders, we’ve adjusted the application criteria and enhanced the supports for tourism businesses so they can continue to support their employees, address operating costs and be ready to welcome visitors again as soon as it’s safe to travel.”
The ministry has simplified the application process and streamlined the criteria, making it easier for all businesses to qualify for grants, particularly those in the hard-hit tourism sector. Tourism businesses will now be eligible for up to $45,000, an increase compared to the previous maximum of $40,000, due to a boost in the additional funds now available to help the sector recover.
“On behalf of the Tourism Task Force, I want to thank the Government of British Columbia for its response to the recommendations set out in our report,” said Tamara Vrooman, task force chair, and president and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority. “COVID-19 has had a severe impact on our tourism industry and we are confident the funding bridge will provide immediate relief to keep businesses open. This is a good first step to ensure we are well-positioned for recovery when we can once again welcome visitors to British Columbia.”
Adjustments to the Small and Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant Program have already been implemented and the Indigenous tourism relief grant program will launch early in the New Year.
“We are all struggling, like almost all small businesses are right now, and this grant might make the difference to many of us whether or not we make it through this pandemic,” said Mike Willie, owner/operator, Sea Wolf Adventures. “It is important for many reasons that Indigenous peoples participate in the mainstream economy as business owners and innovators, and it provides not only economic opportunities for our communities and entrepreneurs, but can influence change politically, socially and economically. This provincial government funding gives me confidence that Indigenous tourism operators have a chance to survive this crisis, so we can continue to contribute viably and economically in years to come.”
The new relief fund more than doubles the $50 million announced in September 2020 in the StrongerBC economic recovery plan to implement the recommendations from the task force.
The task force’s report has seven recommendations in three categories:
- allocation of emergency funds for businesses and the workforce;
- acceleration of growth for the tourism sector and enhancing sustainability; and
- informing a renewed strategic tourism framework.