The COVID-19 pandemic has been an extraordinarily difficult time for the tourism industry around the world, including the many people in the Kootenays whose livelihoods rely heavily on visitors to our region.
The challenges of travel restrictions and closed international borders have hit businesses and communities hard. Kootenay tourism operators, business owners, and workers in the sector have been making extraordinary efforts to find ways to weather the storm.
Our provincial government has been working hard to support the tourism sector through these tough times.
Tourism is vital to our area, and we’re determined to do what we can to help the sector get through this summer and ensure that we’re set up to make a strong recovery.
Since the COVID-19 state of emergency was announced in B.C., our government has taken measures to support the tourism industry and related small businesses.
This has included providing an extra $10 million to B.C. community destination marketing organizations to help them retain staff and continue supporting local businesses.
We provided $600,000 and secured $1 million in federal funds for the BC Tourism Resiliency Network, which has helped over 1000 tourism businesses access COVID-19 supports.
We’ve supported campaigns by Destination BC to promote domestic tourism, and we’ve extended other supports to small businesses such as cutting property tax bills for business, deferring payment of other taxes including PST, and allowing restaurants to purchase alcohol at wholesale prices.
Our colleague Lisa Beare, B.C.’s Minister of Tourism, Arts, and Culture, has been working closely with leaders in the tourism sector, and seeking input from the sector on how B.C.’s economic recovery plan can support the industry.
We will continue to look at new ways to keep bridging the gap for the sector until the day when international travel can safely begin again.
We know that challenges and frustrations will continue for many until the pandemic allows us to return to something more like normal.
As we face these challenges, it’s important to remember that B.C.’s successful management of the pandemic, and the sacrifices that so many people have made is what has allowed us to open the province for domestic travel earlier than other jurisdictions.
As difficult as it can be, we need to double down on the collective hard work we’ve all put into flattening the curve, so that we can continue to move safely along a path to re-opening and recovery.
With B.C. in Phase 3 of our COVID-19 recovery plan this summer, we are welcoming those visiting us from other provinces, particularly visitors from Alberta, while understanding that everyone in B.C.—residents and visitors alike—is expected to follow the Provincial Health Officer’s guidance.
This is also a great time to explore close to home, and take time to visit the places in your own region that you’ve wanted to see, but maybe never found the time before.
Wherever you are exploring this summer, practice good travel manners—researching your destination before you go, following COVID rules of hand-washing, physical distancing, and staying home if you’re sick—and encourage others to do the same.
Tourism is an important part of a sustainable economic future for our region, and our government will continue to be there to support the industry as we move through the months to come.
As Dr. Henry says, this is the summer of “fewer faces and bigger spaces”—and what better big spaces could there be than the mountains, lakes, and trails of the Kootenays!
Michelle Mungall, MLA for Nelson-Creston
Katrine Conroy, MLA for Kootenay West