As the latest wave of pandemic restrictions flushes cash from the pockets of BC businesses, the province announces a new grant program to help them survive another hit to their bottom lines.

The program was announced by Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, Melanie Mark, as a response to the province’s Tourism Task Force’s call to action on Jan. 14, 2022.  As much as $15 million will be provided through the Tourism Accommodation and Commercial Recreation Relief Fund through three streams: one for B.C.-owned large accommodation providers employing more than 150 people; the second for Indigenous-owned large accommodation properties employing more than 100 people and located on reserve; and the third for tenure and BC Parks permit holders that operate as tourism businesses.

Ingrid Jarrett, president and CEO of the British Columbia Hotel Association said accommodators across B.C. have suffered years of devastating losses while struggling to meet the demands of rising fixed costs.  Jarrett said the hotel association is grateful that this funding will help alleviate hardship for large accommodation providers and “better position our industry for recovery”.

On behalf of adventure tourism operators who hold tenures or park-use permits, the relief funds will help those operators who work in the remote backcountry areas of British Columbia, said Katherine MacRae, executive director of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association and co-chair of the Adventure Tourism Coalition.

While the news sounds positive overall, small tourism operators in Osoyoos have a different view of the way the funding is structured, according to Kelley Glazer, executive director of Destination Osoyoos.  “Although the funds are very much appreciated as the understanding of government is important through these difficult times, we have very few, if any, tourism businesses in Osoyoos that will qualify for this recent funding opportunity.  We are made up of smaller businesses that are often run by sole owners, so the number of staff criteria is not appropriate even in our larger businesses.”

The relief grants will help offset fixed costs for eligible large accommodation operators with property taxes, hydro fees for Indigenous-owned accommodation or assistance for tourism businesses operating on Crown land.  “Indigenous Tourism BC continues to focus our work on supporting Indigenous tourism businesses to remain in operation during these challenging times,” said Brenda Baptiste, chair of Indigenous Tourism BC.

Derek Bryson, Marketing/Retail Manager for Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos sees the additional funding as a plus in these dark times. “I have seen a lot of positive come with the tourism industry and when COVID did happen it was devastating to have to shut down and rely on an uncertain future”.  Bryson said as many as 90 percent of other Indigenous tour operators and businesses have already shut down permanently or are considering selling their assets to stay afloat.  He noted the cultural centre is a non-profit organization that relies on grants and funding for everything, including hiring for the summer months.

To Bryson’s point, the province is listening.  On Jan. 19, 2022, just five days after the above announcement, the province announced that they will be making an additional one-time stimulus payment of $3.7 million that will be specifically earmarked to support Indigenous Tourism BC (ITBC) with the goal of bringing back the Indigenous tourism industry to its pre-pandemic levels of success by 2024.  This additional grant will help provide support for Indigenous businesses to expand their reach by assisting with the purchase of new digital and online tools, delivering training programs to assist businesses in developing marketable tourism products and working with interested First Nations to develop and market tourism experiences.

Minister Mark commented in her announcement that Indigenous tourism was one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry and generated $705 million in gross domestic output and created 7,400 full-time jobs prior to the pandemic.  There are more than 480 Indigenous tourism businesses within more than 200 First Nations in British Columbia.

And ITBC stats confirm Bryson’s claim in the province’s report with this announcement, indicating that 91 percent of its stakeholders were closed or operating with limited capacity, and 74 percent of Indigenous businesses had to lay off staff during the pandemic.  For more information on the additional 3.7-million-dollar stimulus payment, contact ITBC directly.

The Tourism Accommodation and Commercial Recreation Relief Fund application intake for this new program is open until Feb. 14, 2022. Eligibility criteria and application information can be found online:

Categorized as Investment

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