Fairmont Empress
Photo courtesy of Fairmont Empress

The Tourism Industry Association of BC (TIABC) is asking the provincial government to allocate a large chunk of funds earmarked for its COVID-19 recovery plan to help revive the tourism and hospitality sector.

A statement released by the coalition on Tuesday morning announces that the sector is seeking $680 million out of the $1.5 billion fund reserved for recovery, to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the B.C. visitor economy and its workforce.

See also: B.C. announces $5 billion relief package for people and businesses affected by COVID-19

TIABC argues that their industry is the most severely impacted by business closure orders and restrictions on personal travel, some of which still remain in place.

“The existing suite of packages aimed at the overall economy are appreciated and helpful, but not sufficient to sustain the B.C. tourism and hospitality sector for the foreseeable future from this unexpected pandemic,” said TIABC Chair, Vivek Sharma, in a statement.

“The only way we can prevent generations of lost economic activity, jobs, and tax revenues is by acting decisively now with innovative and creative solutions that recognize the importance of this sector, which is the face and brand of British Columbia to the world and one of the strongest drivers of BC’s economy.”

Projections for the province’s tourism sector, according to Destination B.C., forecast a $14.8 billion (69 per cent) decline in tourism revenue, down from from $20.4 billion in 2018 to $6.7 billion in 2020.

To help mitigate these declines, the TIABC proposes the creation of a $680 million stimulus package broken down into three components.

First, the group envisions a $475 million ‘Working Capital Recovery Grant’ that could provide low or no-interest loans with an extended payback period for crippled businesses that normally rely on out-of-province visitors.

Next, a $190 million allocation to fund businesses in their efforts to adapt to their operations to the health and safety requirements of COVID-19.

The final $15 million is proposed to be used for helping industry sub-sectors (accommodation, attractions, transportation, food services, and retail) refocus and create supply chains to promote recovery over the next 18 months and moving forward.

See also: “Absolutely devastating”: B.C. hotel workers raise awareness for industry crippled by COVID-19

This proposal also recommends the creation of a task force to oversee funding allocation, with members from the B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, the Ministry of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness, and the Ministry of Finance.

Earlier this month, workers in the province’s hotel sector gathered at the B.C. Legislature to raise awareness of the lack of job stability workers currently face.

Approximately 50,000 hotel workers in the province have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and they are not legally guaranteed those positions back.

The Ministry of Finance has yet to announce their plans for how the $1.5 billion set aside for pandemic recovery will be allocated.