VICTORIA – On March 29, the British Columbia Provincial Health Officer issued new public health restrictions (which have been extended) that closed indoor dining, re-enforced discouragement of non-essential travel between communities and closed the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort. The reaction by Greater Victoria customers was immediate, with thousands of hotel room nights cancelled, restaurant staff layoffs and thousands of dollars in perishable food waste. The sudden notice took many by surprise, causing intense frustration and anger in our industry – already beleaguered for over a year from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the days that followed it became clear these restrictions were necessary from a public health perspective, as the COVID-19 case numbers in British Columbia rose. However, frustration remained due to the sudden nature of the closures and the lack of corresponding support for the visitor economy.
To support our members and the industry, Destination Greater Victoria acted to ensure the voice of the visitor economy was heard:
- Engaged Mayor of Victoria Lisa Helps and her Business Support table. A letter was sent to Premier John Horgan, Minister Adrian Dix, Minister Ravi Khalon and Bonnie Henry requesting specific criteria for the removal of public health restrictions so that we have a pathway to reopening. The letter was co-signed by the Urban Development Institute (UDI), South Island Prosperity Partnership, Hotel Association of Greater Victoria, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Destination Greater Victoria and Downtown Victoria Business Association.
- In collaboration with The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and The Downtown Victoria Business Association, we discussed various communications initiatives for the weeks ahead. The goal is to minimize negative impacts and improve lines of communication from those responsible for public health policy to those advocating for the visitor economy.
- Finalized a submission through the BC Coalition of Tourism Partners to Premier John Horgan requesting that government work with industry on a concrete tourism re-start strategy. This letter was signed by the Tourism Industry Association of BC, Hotel Association of BC, Tourism Vancouver, Tourism Richmond, Destination Greater Victoria and Indigenous Tourism Association of BC.
Our industry has suffered so much. We will continue supporting recovery for our members and sharing their stories with officials at all levels of government – speaking to those with the ability to help the visitor economy. Vaccines continue to roll out and later this spring the situation will change for the better. However, the visitor economy will require support and encouragement from political leaders as we start our long road to recovery in earnest. Reopening will not mean immediate profitability and there is a very long road ahead for businesses in our sector.
Paul Nursey is the President and CEO of Destination Greater Victoria