Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)

B.C. tourism seeks relief as businesses wait for COVID-19 restrictions to ease

Mid-June earliest for more in-province travel to be authorized

B.C. tourism businesses are preparing for the easing of COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions within the province, and many fear they won’t be able to stay viable until it happens.

Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry indicated this week there could be movement by the end of June, if coronavirus infection rates remain low.

“We are watching very carefully now because as things are opening up we may start to see cases increase,” Henry said May 27. “If we can do that in a slow and measured way, then by the middle of June we should absolutely be able to move out a little bit more.”

Horgan was cautious about the beginning of phase three of the B.C. government’s restart plan, which includes camping, hotels and theatres. The official timeline is for June to September, based on COVID-19 transmission rates.

“We need to see how phase two goes before we start contemplating phase three,” Horgan said May 27. “But our focus is on public health, making sure people are safe. We want to get the economy back to a place where people can be comfortable going to work, going to shop, going to visit destinations around B.C., but we are not certainly at stage three yet, we are expecting that to be sometime later into the middle of June.”

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said the province needs more detailed information about the virus risk, marketing help and assistance to businesses that have lost most of their revenue.

“Our tourism industry is in big trouble this summer, and there will be a bit of a rebound in domestic tourism but an awful lot of people are going to be worried and staying home, so it would be helpful to have an understanding of the risk by region so that people think they can go into the quieter corners of BC and have a great time, and be safe while they do so,” Wilkinson said in an interview.

“It would be helpful to have advice from the provincial health officer about the kinds of things we should be engaged in, like being out on a houseboat perhaps, or hiking in the back country as things that are safe, and to be told things we should be avoiding in more specific detail than we’ve got right now.”

Industry organizations have painted a bleak picture of the outlook for 2020. In a joint statement for Tourism Week, the B.C. Hotel Association the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. and the Alliance of Beverage Licensees called for a moratorium on evictions for commercial tenant and extension of the federal government’s commercial rent assistance and wage subsidy programs.

“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,” said Ingrid Jarrett, president of the B.C. Hotel Association.

Mark von Schellwitz, vice president of Restaurants Canada, said 70 per cent of Western Canada members don’t know if they will have enough funds to cover vendors, rent and reopening costs over the next three months.

Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Association of B.C., agreed. “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,” he said.

RELATED: B.C. visitor centres get help to reopen for local tourism

RELATED: B.C. parks reservations surge as camping set to resume

Both Horgan and Wilkinson indicated there is little hope for any easing of international travel in 2020, with a 14-day isolation rule in effect for people entering or returning from the U.S. and elsewhere. That likely takes Vancouver out of the running to host a summer NHL playoff season.

For Black Ball Ferry Line, whose Coho car and passenger ferry has linked Victoria and Port Angeles WA since 1959, the wait since operations were shut down in March is a big concern.

“It’s going to be difficult for us to survive if this lasts a very long time,” Black Ball co-owner Ryan Malane told the Peninsula Daily News in Port Angeles.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Creston’s Sunset Seed Company closes for good

“It’s time for me to retire, simply put,” said Tom Heal, who became the manager of the family business in 2005

Column: One person can make a difference

“While it’s sad for many to see the Sunset Seed Company close their doors for good, it dawned on me that several were going to miss Tom and his aura more than the goods that he sold”

Nine new COVID-19 cases announced in Interior Health region

The total number of cases since the pandemic started is now at 531 for the region

Terry Tiessen to run as Libertarian candidate in Nelson-Creston

Tiessen previously ran in the 2019 federal election

Nicole Charlwood to run for Green Party

Charlwood was previously the Greens local campaign manager

B.C.’s top doctor encourages Halloween costumes to include masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry will soon be releasing guidelines on how to safely trick-or-treat this Halloween

Horgan frustrated as Transport Canada mandate for BC Ferry riders returns

Transport Canada reinstates rule that bans passengers from lower decks

Reincarnation, baby! Music-making B.C. couple celebrate ‘miracle’ pregnancy

‘I (said) to Adam, ‘I really think this is your brother reincarnated,’ Elise Estrada says

Survey finds doctors worry supplies of flu vaccine, PPE will lag demand

Canadian health officials have said additional flu vaccines have been ordered to meet expected demand

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Ahead of likely second wave, 60% of Canadians relaxing COVID-19 measures

Proportion of Canadians following safety measures has dropped by 3 per cent in the past two weeks

Canada’s population tops 38 million, even as COVID-19 pandemic slows growth

Immigration, the top population driver, decreased due to the pandemic

Most Read