TIAC, Destination Canada call for help, search for solutions
A strongly worded call for federal government funding to support Canada’s travel and tourism industries during the COVID-19 virus crisis was announced by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) last week.
A webinar presented by Destination Canada on March 20 gave TIAC president and CEO Charlotte Bell the opportunity to express deep concerns for the future of these industries, and to appeal for government financial assistance.
“Outside of the health sector, Canada’s tourism and travel industry is the most severely impacted sector in Canada by the COVID-19 global pandemic – and unfortunately, there is no end in sight,” said Bell.
Her participation in the webinar meshed with the release of a statement by TIAC describing the plight of these sectors. TIAC warned that without immediate support from the federal government, Canada’s $100 billion-plus tourism sector will see monumental job losses over the coming days and weeks – and that, in fact, this was already happening.
“Without tourists or local visitors, the tourism industry has ground to a complete halt. Now, the industry’s more-than 200,000 businesses are facing a dire situation without immediate support.”
The federal government’s recent announcements for $10 billion in available credit through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada, as well as the $82 billion aid package are important first steps for impacted Canadians, says TIAC.
However, TIAC’s internal analysis shows that without immediate and substantial industry-specific support from the federal government, the vast majority of the 1.8 million Canadians employed in the travel/tourism sector could be without a job within weeks.
“The measures announced this week were general in nature, and not targeted specifically at any one sector – these are important steps but do not address the devastating impact on this sector,” said Bell.
TIAC’s president and CEO continued: “The actions taken to curb COVID-19 such as the closure of Canada’s borders to international visitors, suspension of international flights around the world, and the shutdown of restaurants and entertainment venues have disproportionately impacted the tourism and travel industry, causing an almost total halt of tourism activity resulting in massive job losses, hotel closures and precipitous cancellations of events of all kinds. These are all businesses that rely on tourists and locals alike to survive.”
Leading the charge
As such, TIAC is leading the charge to make the case to the government that swift action is needed to rescue the travel and tourism sectors.
“We want to ensure that tourism businesses are able to continue operations in these uncertain times,” said Bell, calling for immediate relief measures.
These include specialized or fast-tracked liquidity options for businesses operating in the tourism and travel sector – as much as $6 billion per month for the tourism-sector alone to ensure workers stay employed and businesses afloat.
TIAC is also calling for support for airlines and airports, including rent payment deferrals, suspension of industry specific taxes and financial relief for reduced cash flow.
As well, the industry is pushing for recovery funding, asking for a significant stimulus to ensure the industry can quickly rebound once the outbreak is over, including increased marketing funds to promote Canada after the crisis has passed.
“Tourism can bounce back quickly, as we know from the experience of the SARS outbreak, and Canada must capitalize on that opportunity,” says TIAC.
Destination marketing ends
Speaking for Destination Canada during the webinar was Gloria Loree, the senior VP of marketing strategy and chief marketing officer, who confirmed that all marketing of Canadian tourism had been put on hold for now.
“All paid media marketing programs in all markets is pausedare paused,” said Loree, noting that Destination Canada is redeploying its budget to prepare for a recovery phase.
Meanwhile, Destination Canada is continuing to post content in its social feeds and is working with its partners across the country to develop a recovery plan to launch new content in the future.
It also confirmed that Rendez-vous Canada 2020, which had been scheduled to take place in Quebec City in May, had been cancelled.
“We will work through the process of refunds for those registered and we will follow up with next steps and details over the next few weeks. For registered delegates, we will look to see how we can help facilitate communications between buyers and sellers, and offer virtual appointments,” said the Destination Canada presentation.
Loree acknowledged that the “impacts of COVID-19 are unprecedented, severe, widespread and are hitting tourism particularly hard.” As such, Destination Canada is tracking the impacts in real time nationally, with the goal of providing decision makers with clear, evidence-based information with which to make informed decisions on how to mitigate these effects.
“We know that at some point this will end, and that people will want to get out of their homes and support Canadian tourism,” said Loree.
In its presentation, TIAC suggested that programs be launched to encourage “people to get moving again and exploring Canada’s many treasures.”
For example, a free national park pass program like the one introduced during Canada’s 150th celebrations would be helpful in urging Canadians to rediscover their country, says TIAC.
And said Loree: “we are looking to understand when is the best time to broadcast that Canada is, once again, opening its arms to local and international visitors.”