The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) is asking the federal government for sector-specific investments andcommitments to be included in the upcoming federal budget.
TIAC recently released its 2021 Tourism Recovery Plan, developed by an Industry Recovery group of tourism leaders from across the country, representing all sectors of the tourism economy. The organization’s newly announced President and CEO, Beth Potter, testified to the Standing Committee on Finance, outlining these recommendations.
“It is imperative that we see targeted investment in the upcoming budget. We are here today, over a year into the pandemic, the visitor economy is still in crisis, and yet, we are still waiting on a sector-specific support package,” said Potter.
Prior to COVID-19, tourism was one of the fastest growing industries in the world. The tourism sector in Canada was the 5th largest, responsible for 10% of Canadian jobs, $105 billion in revenues and 2.3% of GDP. Despite the slow recovery of some businesses, Canada’s tourism sector has remained stagnant. The tourism economy has lost over half a million jobs, and unemployment in the sector has surpassed the national unemployment rate, according to a recent report by Destination Canada.
“We have seen the commitment from the government in the Speech from the Throne and the Fall Economic Statement. But we need to see action and investment in measures to support the rebuilding of our sector. The health and safety of Canadians are paramount to our sector – what we are asking for is the ability to plan for our future. We need the federal government to commit to criteria and set some specific goalposts on international and inter-provincial border re-openings,” continued Potter, “it is unsustainable for our businesses to operate on a month-to-month basis with no ability to forecast.”
Tourism businesses are different than most, unable to pivot to online services, and with different methods of revenue generation, including seasonal businesses, which are outliers in many of the application requirements for current support programs. A large portion of the 2021 Tourism Recovery Plan is based on Supporting Business Solvency and focuses on immediate responses needed in current government support programs like; adjusting CEWS and CERS until beyond the summer months and providing immediate liquidity for the aviation sector by supporting carriers, airports, and by providing sufficient funding to government service providers, establishing incentives for airlines to maintain service to remote communities and eliminating airport ground lease rent. Without support for the air sector and access to liquidity to stay on top of fixed costs, the sector’s recovery will be prolonged and Canada will lose its global competitiveness
“TIAC has been advocating for the sector since the onset of the pandemic. We applaud the government on its swift actions and support programs like CEWS that have helped many Canadians, including many of our businesses. But the reality is that the recovery of our sector will depend on lifting travel restrictions. We need to use current science-based data, and effective testing and contact tracing, to commit to criteria on border opening. We need federal guidance on a policy roadmap,” continued Potter.
TIAC is calling on the government for immediate action in this budget. In addition to the recommendations on liquidity and improving current support programs to include the hardest hit in the sector, TIAC is asking for:
A tax incentive to Canadians for the 2021/2022 tax years to travel locally or within Canada;The development of a Business Events and Recovery funding program;Top up funding for Destination Canada to keep Canadian destinations top of mind, to support Destination Marketing Organizations and to entice the return of high-value travellers;
The reinstatement of the visitor GST rebate program for international visitors;The re-introduction of the federally funded Marquee Tourism Events Program;Support for the tourism labour market and capacity building projects
“Canadians want to travel. Health and safety is, of course, a key consideration, but when restrictions are lifted, there will be high interest. It is important that the industry be able to offer services for these domestic visitors. We are asking for support to allow the sector to survive, and regain competitiveness on the global scale through and following this pandemic. Canada’s tourism sector was the first hit, the hardest hit and will be the last to recover. Understanding the fluidity of the situation and that we will need to adapt, we are asking for commitments.” concluded Potter.