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

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

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
MP Morrison calls Keystone XL permit cancellation ‘devastating news’

Kootenay-Columbia MP reacts to the Conservative Party’s removal of a controversial Ontario MP

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

The three individuals who were captured on camera leaving the Sparwood Save on Foods with approx. $200 of groceries on Jan. 17. (Image courtesy of Elk Valley RCMP)
Extortion, fraud, COVID-complaints and collisions: RCMP update

The Elk Valley RCMP has responded to 30 COVID-19 related complaints since March last year

City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Rental zone considered for new housing development in Fernie

A proposed project would see 72 multi-family units built, with two thirds to be rental housing

(File Photo)
Interior Health says COVID positivity rates in Fernie area actually 10-12%

IH say the rates are not as high as previously claimed by the region’s top doctor

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read