As B.C.’s minister of tourism, arts and culture, I’d like to respond to a recent column about the provincial government’s approach to supporting the tourism sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our government knows the tourism and hospitality sectors are a key part of B.C.’s economy. This important sector provides good jobs for people and creates vibrant communities that offer exciting experiences for visitors throughout our province. As an industry that relies heavily on people visiting from around the world, the current travel restrictions and border closures have had a significant effect on tourism businesses.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been working very closely with the tourism sector, associations and businesses to hear directly from them on their needs and ideas for recovery. Businesses asked our government for help navigating all the supports available, assistance with ICBC, BC Hydro and tax payments, rent relief and flexibility for liquor licensing to help the hospitality sector supplement their revenue – and we delivered.
Another key part of our work is strongly advocating for the industry to the federal government. Our efforts have resulted in initial funding for tourism businesses, the federal wage subsidy program, emergency response benefit, interest-free loans and funding to encourage British Columbians to travel locally this year.
Our government is also investing in tourism at the community level so we are ready to welcome visitors back following the pandemic. We’ve provided almost $9 million through the rural community development grant program for 98 tourism-related project such as campgrounds, cultural centres and improved signage. We’re also investing $9 million in local active transportation infrastructure initiatives, many of which benefit locals and visitors alike, and partnering with the federal government on $42 million in enhancements to arts and culture centres, recreation and sport centres, boat launch facilities, First Nation longhouses and art centres, and trail systems.
We are very fortunate that B.C. is in a position for people to respectfully travel around our beautiful province. We must continue to follow the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry to keep our curve as flat as possible so we can support tourism in a safe way.
There is no question that the tourism sector has been hit hard by the pandemic and there is more work ahead of us. We will continue to support the industry so it can come back strong in the future.
Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture