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

Tough time for tree fruits as some B.C. farm products soar

Province reports record 2019 sales, largely due to cannabis

Summerland Museum to hold walking tours

Community’s past will be explained during series of summer tours

Summerland mayor asks for community conversation following racist vandalism

Home of Indo-Canadian family in Summerland was targeted on evening of July 13

COVID-19 cases at Oliver farm likely linked to Kelowna outbreak, says Interior Health

A team of doctors, nurses and health investigators are at the Krazy Cherry Farm to test employees

COLUMN: A problem with the WE charity

Federal ethics commissioner investigating Trudeau for the third time

21 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in B.C. as virus ‘silently circulates’ in broader community

Health officials urge British Columbians to enjoy summer safely as surge continues

Separate trials set for 2018 Kelowna Canada Day killing

Four people have been charged with manslaughter in relation to Esa Carriere’s death, including two youths

Kootnekoff: New workplace harassment and violence requirements

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, her diverse legal career spans over 20 years.

Dyer: Buying an electric car

Kristy Dyer is a columnist for Black Press Media who writes about the environment

HERGOTT: Goodbye column

Paul Hergott is taking a break from writing for Black Press

Province agrees to multimillion-dollar payout for alleged victims of Kelowna social worker

Robert Riley Saunders is accused of misappropriating funds of children — often Indigenous — in his care

Lake Country motorhome fire deemed suspicious

Vehicle found fully engulfed Tuesday, July 14, just before 8:30 p.m.

Wet June, dry July: Okanagan on track for hot summer

Environment Canada said the summer and early fall will most likely be warmer than average

Okanagan College bestows highest honour to five individuals

Couple from Westbank First Nation and men from Vernon, Kelowna and Shuswap named Honourary Fellows

Most Read