Additional government support is paramount for one of the province’s hardest hit sectors to successfully get back to work under BC’s Restart Plan say leaders of the largest associations representing tourism, hospitality, and accommodation.
While the path forward is welcomed, working capital is vital for businesses to remain solvent until a full path to recovery can be met.
The $20.4 billion tourism and hospitality sector was effectively shut down when borders closed and both residents and visitors were told to stay home as COVID-19 unfolded in British Columbia.
Since mid-March, thousands of hotels, restaurants, pubs, bars, attractions, and other sectors of the visitor economy have been closed, and many are not expected to re-open unless further government aid is realized.
ABLE BC, BC Hotel Association, Restaurants Canada, TIABC, and the Metro Vancouver Tourism and Hospitality Response and Recovery Task Force are calling on various levels of government to augment existing measures by:
- Providing a working capital grant to allow tourism, hospitality, and accommodation businesses to re-open their doors and/or prevent permanent closures.
- !!! Providing a temporary moratorium on evictions for commercial tenants, akin to the residential measures introduced by the Province.
- Adjusting the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program to ensure that it is more broadly applicable to help businesses that do not meet the CECRA criteria, but who have experienced serious impacts to their sales.
- Suspending property tax increases and penalties for late payments, as well as any local fees including business licenses.
- Extending the temporary layoff timelines to align with the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) extension of August 29th, 2020.
- Extending BC Hydro relief to large and commercial businesses by allowing hotels who are commercial BC Hydro clients the same relief measures as other small and medium size businesses.
Ingrid Jarrett, CEO and president of the British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA), said that: “The accommodation sector supports tourism infrastructure and business in every community across British Columbia, contributing over $3.5 billion dollars in revenue annually.”
Jarrett continued: “With over 400 hotels closed, and more than 62,000 employees laid off in the province, many businesses – some of which rely completely on the summer season – are on the brink of insolvency. Starting from square one to reopen the doors, or redefine service and health and safety excellence is going to take investment, training, inventory and onboarding costs. With our industry crippling, it is time for the government to step up and announce a relief measure that will allow this sector to survive.”
Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia (TIABC), observed that: “Measures such as the wage subsidy program, various loan and rent relief packages have all been helpful to a degree, but stop short of helping operators with the biggest challenge around liquidity.”
Judas added: “Businesses have ongoing expenses but without visitors for the foreseeable future and no revenues, few have any cash reserves to meet their current expenses, let alone have enough to begin operating again.”