B.C. Tourism Minister Melanie Mark takes questions in the B.C. legislature about months of delays to aid for tourism industry devastated by COVID-19 restrictions, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)

B.C. Tourism Minister Melanie Mark takes questions in the B.C. legislature about months of delays to aid for tourism industry devastated by COVID-19 restrictions, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)

B.C. diverts more COVID-19 small business relief to tourism

An extra $50 million shifted to attractions hit by travel bans

B.C.’s long-awaited COVID-19 fund for tourism and other small businesses has been restructured for the second time in December, with an extra $50 million shifted from the $300 million fund dedicated to tourism operators only.

Tourism Minister Melanie Mark confirmed Tuesday the additional money is to act on the key recommendations of the tourism task force set up last summer, which called for additional ‘bridge’ financing.

The $300 million small business aid fund is expected to be taken up quickly, after Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon announced an easing of requirements. It is now available to businesses operating for at least 18 months, rather than three years, and businesses need only to show that they have lost at least 30 per cent of revenue in the month they apply.

Mark said the changes respond to the first three recommendations from the tourism industry task force, chaired by Vancouver International Airport CEO Tamara Vrooman.

“The task force recommended that we take the $50 million that we had given them when the task force was initiated, set aside that plus $50 million from the small and medium business grant program, and dedicate it solely to tourism,” Mark said.

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“We are all struggling, like almost all small businesses are right now, and this grant might make the difference to many of us whether or not we make it through this pandemic,” said Mike Willie, owner-operator of Sea Wolf Adventures, a wildlife-watching business at Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island.


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