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B.C. tourism task force asks governments for more help

Requests include enhanced wage-subsidy programs and full backing of Business Development Bank of Canada loans to small businesses
Vancouver's cruise season will be shortened if not cancelled in 2020 | Port of Vancouver

What happened: A task force representing the hospitality and tourism sectors is lobbying the provincial and federal governments for more help as government restrictions on movement and gatherings have virtually halted the tourism trade.

Why this matters: The tourism sector was worth about $18.4 billion and it employed 137,800 people in 2017, according to Destination British Columbia.

An umbrella group representing more than 50 organizations in the travel and tourism sectors on April 16 released letters to both the provincial and federal governments, urging action necessary to counter what it calls "devastating effects COVID-19."

"Many of the initiatives which governments have launched have been inaccessible to most of us in the travel and tourism sector, and the biggest issue for our members – that of immediate-term liquidity – has not been addressed at all,” said Ingrid Jarrett, president and CEO of the BC Hotel Association and the co-chair of the group officially called the Metro Vancouver Tourism and Hospitality Industry Response and Recovery Task Force.

Task force co-chair, and acting CEO of Tourism Vancouver, Ted Lee, was one of three co-chairs who said that addressing business' liquidity is top of mind. 

They also want governments to enhance wage-subsidy programs and provide full backing of Business Development Bank of Canada loans to small businesses as well as easier access to funding through the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA).

The task force also wants the federal government to extend the CEBA repayment period, and an increase in the non-repayable portion of loans made under that program.

Its letters to Canada's Minister of Tourism Mélanie Joly and B.C.'s Minister of Tourism Arts and Culture, Lisa Beare calls those requests "critical elements needing to be addressed."

“While many businesses have felt the impact of COVID-19 over the last 30 days, it’s important to remember that the hospitality industry in Metro Vancouver has now suffered through its third month of negative impact,” said a third co-chair, Nancy Small, whose day job is CEO at Tourism Richmond.

"The suspension of the summer cruise ship season, the cancellation of hundreds of signature festivals and events, and loss or postponement of large-scale meetings and global conferences all the way into the fall of this year have all spelled a months-long disaster, for those of us working to support this province’s visitor economy.”

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