By Beverley DeSantis and Acacia Pangilinan
September 1, 2020
Tourism has been one of the hardest hit industries from the COVID-19 pandemic. With borders still closed, restaurant capacity diminished and the international traveler staying at-home – the tourism industry needs help and it needs it soon.
Tourism in British Columbia generates more than $20 billion dollars in revenue annually, directly contributing $8.3 billion to our GDP (Gross Domestic Product). For perspective, the mining industry contributed $5.2 billion to the GDP and oil and gas $4.9 billion. Tourism employs upwards of 300,000 people, with over half of these jobs dependent upon being able to travel. We must come together to support these individuals that create the charm and culture that has made British Columbia a world-renowned destination.
As of today, the tourism industry is on life support surviving on local visitors. We are eternally grateful to have been able to welcome visitors primarily from Western Canada to rediscover our backyard, but the local travellers simply have different habits that cannot be replicated.
The local traveller does not stay in hotels, they do not shop for keepsakes, and they do not experience a destination the same way someone from overseas or the United States would. We understand and have advocated the decisions put forward by Government for the safety of the public – even though we knew that the costs would be dire.
Fall is quickly approaching and many of the Kamloops tourism businesses remained closed for the entirety of their season and are asking what is next? What do we do? Will we survive?
Government closed the tourism industry down because it had to. Now this industry needs government to bring it back and make sure it can survive, because without that support, businesses will fold and the jobs that go with those businesses will disappear.
This should concern us all. Without tourism businesses in our communities, we all lose as they not only provide important jobs - more jobs than any other sector - they provide us all with world class services and amenities that we enjoy and that underpin our quality of life.
In Kamloops this means our restaurants, specialty retail, concerts experiences, transportation shuttles to ski hills and wineries, sporting events ...These businesses and those that rely upon them are at risk of disappearing from our communities for a very long time.
With borders remaining closed for the foreseeable future, and our tourism season winding down, there are some very fragile and frightening months ahead for an industry that is reliant upon travel.Many businesses in Kamloops are at risk. If businesses fail, there will be no jobs for people to come back to.
This past July, a coalition representing British Columbia’s more than 19,000 tourism and hospitality businesses presented the B.C. government with a recovery stimulus proposal that would see the government put forward $680 million from its $1.5-billion recovery package towards the sector.
On behalf of Tourism Kamloops and the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, we are asking all residents - directly affected or not – to reach out to our provincial government via email, letter, or phone call. Encourage our government to follow through with the $680 million recovery stimulus package and to keep the tourism industry top of mind this September.
Let’s make sure no one is left behind.
Beverley DeSantis, CEO
Acacia Pangilinan, Executive Director
Kamloops Chamber of Commerce