Canadian Tourism Week 2020
A time to connect and consider what a recovery will look like
The Tourism Industry Association of Canada says this country’s just-completed Tourism Week was an opportunity to remind Canadians of the critical importance the coronavrus-devastated tourism industry plays in the national economy and warn people as the normally hugely busy summer season gets underway that the travel trade has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.
Tourism Week ran from May 24-31 and arrived against a backdrop of TIAC and others warning that revenues have dried up for many tourism companies, which may lead to a large number of permanent closures.
“Canada cannot afford to lose the tourism industry,” TIAC president Charlotte Bell told Canadian Travel Press, adding tourism employed 1.8 million Canadians before coronavirus’ arrival.
Bell said organizers decided to go ahead with this year’s Tourism Week, despite the current gloom and massive travel industry layoffs.
“Tourism Week is normally a time when the industry comes together to celebrate the year’s achievements and ring in the high season,” Bell said. “Prior to the pandemic, tourism in Canada was growing year-after-year, and May typically marked the start of the high season. This year things are looking very different, but we felt it was important to come together as an industry during Tourism Week and look at where we are and what recovery will look like for our sector.
Bell added that: “This was also a great opportunity to connect with our stakeholders through a series of town halls to discuss the challenges they’re facing and how we can continue to help.”
“Tourism in Canada is a $102-billion industry that employs one in every 10 Canadians and accounts for over 2% of Canada’s GDP. As provinces start to reopen and we look at economic recovery measures, we need to ensure that Canada’s tourism industry is supported throughout this process,” Bell stated.
But, TIAC’s boss continued: “We are different than some other sectors – first, our revenues are disproportionately dependent on a short window during the high season, and also, tourism is a critical part of local economies across the entire country from coast to coast to coast. The importance of having some continuity in terms of recovery is going to be vital.”
Bell said tourism was the “first hit and hardest hit industry from the pandemic” and the sector represents airlines, airports, hotels, convention centres, festivals and fairs, attractions, international education, as well as iconic national sites.
“Of the 1.8 million jobs, over 800,000 have already been lost. Many tourism businesses will not reopen. This is a devastating time for the sector. We recognize that public health and safety are extremely important but we also want to work with government to develop a plan for responsibly reopening the visitor economy into recovery and beyond,” Bell told Canadian Travel Press.
Working Towards Recovery
TIAC reports the industry has already started what it calls the important work for recovery, noting airlines and airports have “already put rigorous safety protocols in place,” and the North American hotel industry has “rolled out enhanced health and safety protocols. We’re working on a comprehensive recovery plan as we speak that includes immediate measures to help sustain our businesses, and mid- to long-term measures that will help incentivize tourism, travel, and meetings and conventions in Canada once again.”
The provinces are at different stages of recovery and reopening, and that means tourism to and within different parts of the country is now dependent on those different stages.
TIAC notes that BC has just opened campsite bookings, whereas Ontario is still in “phase 1” of its recovery.
That’s led TIAC to ask the federal government to engage with it in working out a plan for reopening the visitor economy “thoughtfully and responsibly. That dialogue is extremely important to ensure we don’t lose the entire year, and we don’t ultimately lose the tourism industry.”
There are some hopeful signs in TIAC’s view, which notes that some provinces have announced programs to support the sector.
Most recently, Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia announced touism-specific support programs for their provinces.
“Time is of the essence if we are to salvage a portion of the high season and also ensure the damage already done to the sector can be mitigated,” Bell warned.
Meanwhile, TIAC is inviting those interested in learning of tourism’s contribution to this country to visit www.tourismmatters.ca.