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

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s first case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News file)
Two Kelowna flights flagged for COVID-19 onboard

The flights were on Jan. 14 and 18

A Dodge Ram pickup similar to this one was involved in a hit-and-run in Lake Country on Saturday, Jan. 16. (Crime Stoppers photo)
Stolen truck involved in Lake Country hit-and-run

Incident happened on Highway 97 just before 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16

The Okanagan Regional Library is holding a pair of online contests for its young readers. (File photo)
Okanagan Regional Library challenges young readers

Pair of contests online aimed at kids aged up to 18

Kelowna Fire Department. (FILE)
Early morning downtown Kelowna dumpster fire deemed suspicious

RCMP and the Kelowna Fire Department will conduct investigations into the cause of the blaze

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Auldin Maxwell stacks the 693rd block on the top of record-breaking Jenga tower on Nov. 29. (Submitted)
Salmon Arm boy rests world-record attempt on single Jenga brick

Auldin Maxwell, 12, is now officially a Guinness world record holder.

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

Crystal Johns used her lunch break to film her audition video for the Vancouver Canucks.
VIDEO: Former Vees anthem singer wants to bring her voice to the Canucks

Crystal Johns made her audition tape during a lunch break

Snow covers Main Street in downtown Penticton Monday morning, Jan. 25, 2021.
First snowfall of 2021

Chances of light snow all week

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read