A trail along Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park, southeast of Kelowna. Photo: Tourism BC

A trail along Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park, southeast of Kelowna. Photo: Tourism BC

OPINION: Hoping for broader support and better days ahead for tourism sector

Now as we turn the page on 2020, there is room for optimism

By Anthony Everett, Vice Chair – BC Regional Tourism Secretariat

There is no sugar coating the fact that 2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for businesses that are the lifeblood of our tourism industry. For many, it’s been a year in which they have simply tried to keep their heads above water while watching the collapse of the visitor economy and hoping for some semblance of normalcy and viability in 2021.

The BC Regional Tourism Secretariat (BCRTS) and its five regional tourism associations represent more than 8,000 tourism-related businesses which include everything from adventure tourism operators, restaurants, accommodators, to campground operators and artists.

The regional associations have a unique and decades-long relationship with tourism businesses at a grass-roots level and have established themselves as a trusted advisor. The relationship proved invaluable during provincial wildfire and flooding events in 2017 and 2018. Our Associations proved to be the only organizations that could conduct region-wide research and provide quantifiable data on the impact to operators, which in turn informed government policy and funding decisions.

In 2020, a crisis of a different kind emerged in the form of COVID-19, and again, because of the unique relationship with operators from a grassroots perspective, the BCRTS and it regional associations once again assumed an important role.

At the onset of the pandemic, the role we traditionally play as a destination management advisor shifted to one of pandemic support, response and advocacy. Over the last several months, regional associations have worked with tourism businesses to help them adapt and respond to evolving health guidelines and collect important research that has helped inform the development of recommendations and decision-making of government.

The BCRTS also established the BC Tourism Resiliency Network, to more formally support providers and through which, a team of experts in health and safety, human resources, finance and strategic planning were enlisted to provide a suite of expertise. To date, more than 1,500 registered businesses have been provided with one-on-one support.

Our governments have taken action to cushion the blow for many in the tourism sector, including providing funds to help rebuild the sector through BC’s Economic Recovery Plan – while now considering other means of support, including BC Tourism Task Force recommendations and how the Small and Medium sized Business Recovery Grant Program can be accessed by as many tourism operators as possible.

This challenge requires all of us – all levels of government, regional and local tourism and economic development agencies, to continue to work in unison to support economic recovery. It has been encouraging to see all of the various partners come together, speak with one voice, work in a collaborative manner, and put the dire situation facing the sector and businesses, first and foremost.

Now as we turn the page on 2020, there is room for optimism. Vaccination programs are starting to roll out and there will come a point when travellers will once again be looking to BC as a vacation destination.

The challenge and opportunity will be to ensure we are positioned to create safe and memorable experiences for British Columbians, Canadians and eventually, international visitors. Until we reach that point, the BCRTS and regional associations are committed to serving the industry and supporting operators in every way possible to build the sector back – together.

Anthony Everett is Vice Chair of the BC Regional Tourism Secretariat, a collaboration between five regional destination management organizations (Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association, Kootenay Rockies Tourism Association, Northern British Columbia Tourism Association, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, and Tourism Association of Vancouver Island) representing more than 8,000 tourism businesses and organizations.

Tourism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Firefighters respond to a fire on Heatherly Road in Colwood Jan. 19. (Photo courtesy of View Royal Fire Rescue)
December and January, so far, have seen their share of rain. (Black Press Media file photo)
Potential for snow in Greater Victoria after unusually wet December, January

Winter is on the way, says Environment and Climate Change Canada

Local MP Elizabeth May says the federal government needs to revise its rules around allowing freighters to anchor in and around the Gulf Islands. (Black Press Media File)
MP Elizabeth May promises to press new transportation minister on issues important to Vancouver Island

Key issues include anchoring freightes, southern resident killer whales and fate of local bus line

Victoria police say the number of business break and enters in the city has been rising for the last four months. (Twitter/VicPD)
Business break and enters on the rise in Victoria

Sophisticated techniques used to defeat alarm systems, police say

Stair care in Colwood
Colwood Coun. Michael Baxter says Latoria Creek Park is now more enjoyable and safe to take a stroll through due to the latest upgrades completed on the staircase. Four long sets of nature stairs now include slip-proof metal steps. The elevated staircase also allows for better air flow to slow the rotting process, and metal handrails to prevent splinters. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Colwood unveils massive upgrade to popular park staircase

Upgrades include slip-proof metal steps, metal handrails and raised design

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Egg producers in B.C. aren’t obligated to reveal their production sites. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Officials say there’s not enough Vancouver Island eggs to meet demand

BC Egg Marketing Board doesn’t regulate labelling, supply needed from off-Island

A Courtenay resident labours to remove the snow build-up from around her car in February 2019. The area may see snow throughout the coming weekend. Black Press file photo
Snow, winter might not be done with Vancouver Island quite yet

Flurries, snow and cold temps predicted for the weekend for mid-Island

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Most Read