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

Alouette Heights.
Fire at Alouette Heights in Maple Ridge puts half of residents out of their units

Coast Mental Health said fire was small, but sprinkler system caused damage

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 1st case

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

Myrna Norman credits social activity for her success fighting dementia. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge woman writes inspirational book documenting living with dementia

Myrna Norman has been an active community advocate for de-stigmatizing the debilitating disease

Betty Dubé with her daughters, campaigned for Maple Ridge mayor and was elected in 1974. (Maple Ridge Museum)
LOOKING BACK: Women involved in Maple Ridge politics for decades

A look at local women in public office as the U.S. inaugurates its first female vice president

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Jan. 24

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

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

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

The Abbotsford Tulip Festival is permanently closing, with plans to eventually set up in Armstrong, B.C. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Abbotsford Tulip Festival is closing, with plans to rebloom in Armstrong

Event organizer says pandemic and sale of land were factors in decision

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

Most Read