(Northern Vancouver Island Tourism/Steven Fines)

(Northern Vancouver Island Tourism/Steven Fines)

OP-ED: 1 year into pandemic, B.C.’s tourism sector hopes for a light at the end of the tunnel

Only about 17 per cent of businesses have been operating as usual in B.C.

By Anthony Everett – Chair of BC Regional Tourism Secretariat

It is approximately one year since COVID-19 started to take hold in British Columbia and its impact has been devastating on many sectors – including tourism and its more than 19,000 operators across the province.

The BC Regional Tourism Secretariat and its five regional associations have a decades-long relationships with more than 8,000 tourism operators who are represented in the North, Cariboo, Thompson-Okanagan, Kootenays and Vancouver Island. As a trusted advisor to the regions, the Secretariat continues to place a high priority on helping businesses adapt and respond to evolving health guidelines and assist them in accessing supports.

Since last March, the Secretariat has conducted a series of surveys of tourism businesses in the five regions in order to collect information on the evolving impact of the pandemic and help inform government decision-making.

The overall findings are staggering. While there have been fluctuations over the course of the year, on average, only about 17 per cent of businesses have been operating as usual, about 53 per cent operating at reduced capacity, and during the past year about 30 per cent of businesses have closed at some point. Meanwhile, since July, on average 39 per cent of businesses report losing 50 per cent or more of their revenue compared to the same month in 2019.

In the early days of the pandemic, the Secretariat established the BC Tourism Resiliency Network, making available to operators, a team of experts in health and safety, human resources, finance and strategic planning, and digital marketing services – to provide advice and assistance. Over the past year, the number of contacts between the Resiliency Network and businesses, totals more than 28,000 – in the form of one-on-one discussions, participation in seminars, ideas labs and assistance in accessing federal or provincial programs.

Through this process, the opportunity for operators to share ideas, questions and potential solutions with other business owners has also been valuable – because they recognize it’s a fight they are all in together. Throughout, they have shown heart, grit and innovation – in many cases, creating a new retail line or redefining their business to remain viable.

This challenge requires that all levels of government, regional and local tourism and economic development agencies, continue to pull together in the same way, working in unison to support the sector.

Demand for Tourism Resiliency Network support remains strong – but success or impact can’t be measured by numbers alone because every one of these numbers represents a mother, a father or individual whose livelihood is at stake. But when these people say this support has “offered hope” or “helped keep our head above water”, that is what truly underlines how important this effort continues to be.

No one can say with any certainty what may unfold over the next several months. But paramount will be our ongoing and collective commitment to flattening the curve and seeing the vaccination program fully up and running – and completed. Even though now is not the time to travel, our hope is that as we get closer to summer and warmer weather, it may signal a turning point, some measure of relief from COVID and as a result, a more active tourism sector.

A comment from one tourism operator reflects the reality for many, suggesting the key for his business is to survive long enough is to get past this difficult period, regroup and move forward – adding, if his business is able to do that, it will eventually be fine. And that is our hope for every business trying to manage their way through this unprecedented period.

Anthony Everett is Chair of the BC Regional Tourism Secretariat, a collaboration between five regional destination management organizations representing more than 8,000 tourism businesses and organizations.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Tourism

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

Just Posted

Bears are waking up hungry and starting to forage, Conservation Officer Service said on April 9. Prince Residents are advised to keep garbage in sealed containers to lessen bear attraction. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Keep bears wild – they are not teddy bears

Conservation Officer Service warns bears are waking up hungry

Prince Rupert couple Alvin Tait and Loni Martin have postponed their wedding two times due to COVID-19 affecting the marriage rates in Prince Rupert. (Photo: supplied/L.Martin)
No marriages in Prince Rupert in 2021 so far

Weddings down 23.9% in P.R. since COVID-19 with B.C. wedding industry loss at $158 million

Three North Coast organizations are granted funding to promote multiculturalism and support anti-racism, Jennifer Rice MLA announced on April 8. Conrad Elementary School students recognized the first Black Shirt Day on January 15, 2021, to advocate for anti-racism. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
North Coast organizations to benefit from anti-racism funding

$944,000 granted in provincial funding to aid multiculturalism

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed on April 4, according to a statement from police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police name victim following city’s fourth homicide of 2021

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

Most Read