Calling it the “most challenging year ever faced” by those in the province’s tourism sector, BC’s Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Melanie Mark announced on Tuesday that the government is committing to $105 million to support the sector, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
The funding allocation is a response to the recommendations of the Tourism Task Force, which contained seven recommendations across three related categories.
Mark said that “within days” of receiving the report and its recommendations, the province acted on them by committing $100 million in dedicated relief funding for the tourism sector. In addition, the Province is also allocating $5 million to Indigenous Tourism BC to administer relief grant funding targeted for Indigenous businesses.
“This dedicated relief funding for the tourism sector will help people get through these next few months so we can welcome visitors back to our beautiful province once it’s safe to do so,” said Mark.
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According to the province, Indigenous tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments of BC’s tourism industry. However, Indigenous businesses often face additional challenges that may impact their ability to recover, such as barriers to accessing financing and operating in remote locations where connectivity and business services may be limited.
As such, the government said that in the spirit of reconciliation, it will work in partnership with Indigenous Tourism BC in the weeks ahead on an Indigenous-led funding program specifically designed for Indigenous tourism operators.
“This year has tested the resilience of the tourism industry. It has been a time for the sector to come together,” said Brenda Baptiste, chair, Indigenous Tourism BC. “We thank the Province for its ongoing partnership to see Indigenous Tourism BC through to the other side of the impacts of the pandemic.”
The province said the $100-million dedicated relief funding for the tourism sector will be delivered through the existing Small and Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant Program, and BC Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon has met with tourism and hospitality stakeholders, including members of the Tourism Task Force.
“We know how deeply businesses have been impacted by the restrictions in place to keep our communities safe from COVID-19,” Kahlon said. “Working with business owners and stakeholders, we’ve adjusted the application criteria and enhanced the supports for tourism businesses so they can continue to support their employees, address operating costs and be ready to welcome visitors again as soon as it’s safe to travel.”
The ministry has also simplified the application process and streamlined the criteria, making it easier for all businesses to qualify for grants, particularly those in the hard-hit tourism sector. Tourism businesses will now be eligible for up to $45,000, an increase compared to the previous maximum of $40,000, due to a boost in the additional funds now available to help the sector recover.
Adjustments to the Small and Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant Program have already been implemented, and the Indigenous tourism relief grant program will launch early in the new year.