More than 1,100 tourism businesses accessing COVID-19 supports

WHEN COVID-19 arrived in British Columbia, Cheryl Macarthy and Dave Jorgenson, owners of the Frog on the Bog gift shop and several guest accommodation properties in the historic town of Wells, felt the impact to their tourism businesses immediately.

With non-essential travel restrictions in place, the tourism industry throughout B.C. has struggled to navigate the many provincial and federal supports and how they apply to small, seasonal businesses.

Macarthy and Jorgenson’s experience with the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast (CCC) Tourism Resiliency Program has been overwhelmingly positive. Jorgenson shared that they felt very isolated at the start of the pandemic. However, through this program and the access to one-on-one support with a CCC program advisor, they were able to stay informed on available government aid and access tool kits, research, training and COVID-19 reopening protocols. These resources were instrumental in their successful application for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.

“The gift store has a strong, local reputation as a must-visit retail attraction, so we have some confidence that we will survive through our tremendous regional support,” Jorgenson said.

With the store’s recent reopening, they are ramping up purchasing products from regional and local artists and artisans in order to support their community.

Additional resources available through the BC Tourism Resiliency Network include access to program experts in finance, human resources, business strategy, marketing and a digital-information hub and webinars.

For Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park director Richard Varela, learning how to adjust his business after a 75% drop in visitors and the cancellation of school field trips for more than 2,800 students was a significant shift.

“Sorting through the flood of information, guidelines and protocols to determine what’s best for our business was a challenge,” Varela said. “It was extremely helpful to get other perspectives and have a sounding board for ideas from someone who understands our industry, right here on Vancouver Island. The Vancouver Island Coastal Tourism Resiliency Program was there when we needed support the most.”

The BC Tourism Resiliency Network is available to support the 19,000 tourism-related businesses in the province and is delivered through B.C.’s regional destination management organizations. These organizations have extensive knowledge of the tourism sector and local challenges, and strong relationships with tourism operators. The network was supported through an additional $600,000 from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and culture.

Quick Facts:

* To date, over 1,192 tourism businesses have registered in the BC Tourism Resiliency Network, with more registering each week.

* The network is a provincewide expansion of the Vancouver Island Coastal Tourism Resiliency Program, funded in partnership with Island Coastal Economic Trust.

* Western Economic Diversification Canada has provided $1 million for the BC Tourism Resiliency Network. Canada’s regional development agencies work closely with businesses and innovators in their regions to fuel economic growth.

* In 2018, tourism generated $20.5 billion in revenues in B.C.

* The tourism industry creates well-paying jobs for over 161,500 British Columbians.

* B.C. is a top destination for visitors from around the world, welcoming 6.2 million international visitors in 2019.

To register for the BC Tourism Resiliency Network, visit: www.tourismresiliency.ca

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