'We need a program like this': Victoria businesses support call for $680M B.C. tourism bailout
VICTORIA -- It’s no secret that one of the hardest hit sectors in our province throughout the pandemic has been B.C.’s tourism industry, and now that industry is looking for a huge bail out.
Canada’s boarders are closed, tourism is bleak and now businesses that rely on visitors for their livelihoods are in survival mode.
On Friday, July 17, the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia asked the provincial government for a $680 million bailout package.
“If we don’t inject liquidity into businesses they will not survive this and will never open up again,” said Vivek Sharma, vice chair of the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia.
Tourism is B.C.’s third largest private sector employer, and is a $20 billion a year industry, according to the latest 2018 numbers.
The province’s overall COVID-19 recovery budget is $1.5 billion. The tourism association’s request comes in at more than one-third of that budget.
“The sector’s contribution to the provincial GDP is over $8 billion,” said Sharma. “Tax revenues for the provincial government was about $4.5 billion in direct tax revenues. When you put those numbers in perspective, the ask suddenly doesn’t look as large as when you look at it in isolation.”
For Donna Friedlander, owner and operator of Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, any type of financial help couldn’t come soon enough.
Tally-Ho requires about $50,000 a month in basic horse care costs and right now, they’re relying on donors for a lot of that money.
“That money won’t last for very long,” said Friedlander. “A thought of a bailout package, it provides a lot of hope that we can actually see our horses through the winter.”
On July 7, a group of around 200 people rallied in front of the BC Legislative Building. That group was made up of people concerned about the future of their jobs. At the time, CTV News talked to one of those people rallying for their voices to be heard.
“If I’m not offered my job back and I’m replaced and I run out of my CERB benefits, then I have nothing and I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Christy Spiteri, a recently laid off hotel worker from Victoria.
For everyone in the tourism sector, their livelihoods are riding on this request for a bail out.
“We need a program like this to avoid that mass failure of our industry,” said Paul Nursey, CEO of Destination Greater Victoria. “Tens-of-thousands of households here in Victoria rely on this industry.”
The Tourism Association of British Columbia is hoping to begin talks with the B.C. government soon.