VICTORIA -- The B.C. government has earmarked up to $50 million to support tourism landmarks across the province during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province says it is unrolling a new "major anchor attractions program," which will direct grants towards major tourism attractions and the bus operators that bring them there.

Tourism companies in urban areas that see at least 75,000 visitors per year are eligible for up to $1 million in funding.

Meanwhile, tourism attractions in rural areas that see at least 15,000 visitors per year can apply for up to $500,000.

Tour bus operators that see more than 30,000 passengers per year are eligible for up to $500,000 in funding, according to the province.

Applications for the grants are open today, May 18, until June 7. The province expects that the funds will be sent to approved tourism businesses in July 2021. Applications can be submitted here

The grants can be used for a range of expenses, such as payroll, rent or utilities, according to the province.

"All signs are pointing to positive days ahead this summer," said B.C. Premier John Horgan.

Horgan noted that right now, British Columbians must buckle down and follow health orders, but at the same time the province is preparing to reopen when it is safe to do so.

Horgan added that major tourism destinations benefit the communities that surround them, with visitors usually exploring nearby stores and restaurants.

"Many communities depend on tourism landmarks to boost the local economy, bring visitors to town and provide many young people with their first jobs," said Horgan in a statement.

On Vancouver Island, the premier pointed to Butchart Gardens as a destination that would qualify for the new grant.

"Certainly, Butchart Gardens is the one that springs to mind here on the island," he said.

Other examples of landmark tourist attractions include the PNE, Science World and the Capilano Suspension Bridge, according to B.C. Tourism Minister Melanie Mark.

She added that major tourism businesses, are "key employers" for youth in their communities and are important for developing life skills and employment experience in young workers.

"The pandemic has illuminated how important anchor attractions and tour bus companies are to our communities and our tourism ecosystem," she said.

The province estimates that there are roughly 40 rural tourism operations and 30 urban attractions that are eligible for the new grants.