The impact to tourism in BC, the second highest contributor to GDP, due to COVID-19 has been staggering. The number of tourism-related businesses and communities impacted by the coronavirus crisis and the size of this impact is massive. Destination British Columbia estimates 130,000 job losses in tourism and a 75% loss in tourism revenue for BC; unemployment in destinations such as Banff could be as high as 85%. During the first month of the pandemic almost half of all BC businesses temporarily closed were not confident about their ability to reopen.
Tourism, historically one of the most consistent growth industries, is faltering.
However, there are strong efforts in place to move towards recovery.
Destination British Columbia has been quick to develop a framework to add some perspective and guidance for tourism businesses and communities during this disruptive time. The framework describes strategies and actions required to help move from an industry shut down to some type of normalcy. The Destination BC Framework includes 3 phases:
- Response: Initial response to the crisis
- Recovery: Restarting intra-provincial tourism with BC residents
- Resilience: Restarting Canada-wide tourism and moving toward unrestricted international travel
BC is still in the Response Phase, and we are seeing evidence of recovery as hyper-local travel begins. The full-start to recovery will kick off as BC moves into Phase 3 of the Province’s Restart Plan and as BC residents are invited to visit the rest of the province.
Moving from response to recovery means that Destination BC and local tourism organizations will be starting up Visit BC/Local campaigns in an effort to get British Columbia residents to experience BC communities that are ready. In order to be part of that recovery, it is important for communities to understand the readiness of their residents to accept BC visitors and to ensure all the local steps to prepare their own community facilities and local businesses for physical distancing will also work for an in influx of fellow BC residents.
Some ideas to consider as your community prepares for a successful recovery:
- Creating Recovery Teams with businesses and residents to chart the course towards recovery.
- In order to better understand resident sentiment, Tofino polled residents, asking “What is important to be thinking about as the West Coast regions responds to COVID-19 and prepares for the future?” The detailed results are insightful and are being used by Tofino to guide the recovery planning.
- Implementing innovative approaches for physical distancing, for example, turning trails into one-way routes; making allowances to expand into outdoor public spaces; and developing pedestrian blocks on commercial streets.
- Working with businesses and residents to redesigning the central business area, as the City of Fernie is doing, to get these approaches right and to ensure they last.
And of course, making it easy to wash or sanitize hands.
Businesses and communities dependent on tourism have shown tremendous resilience to recover from past crises such as 9/11, SARS and the 2008 financial crises and there is little reason to think that with a little collaboration, engagement and planning that they won’t again.