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Coronavirus: Financial report offers ‘very sobering picture’ for B.C. wine, tourism industries

A new report says financial losses because of the coronavirus pandemic could be between $693 million and $1.02 billion in the Thompson and Okanagan regions.
A new report says financial losses because of the coronavirus pandemic could be between $693 million and $1.02 billion in the Thompson and Okanagan regions. Global News

A new report says 2020 will be a financially rough year for B.C.’s economy, and especially so for the province’s wine and tourism industries because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Titled ‘Estimating Potential COVID-19 Impacts on BC Wine and Tourism,’ the report from wine website WineDrops.ca said hospitality, agriculture and tourism sectors “can anticipate a painful contraction throughout 2020,” adding employment curtailments or job losses could range from 130,000 to 193,000 people.

Specifically, it said B.C. could financially lose between $6 billion and $10.5 billion, with losses in the Thompson and Okanagan regions estimated to be between $693 million and $1.02 billion.

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Winedrops founder Karen Graham says the analysis “seeks to quantify the possible harm to these sectors — in terms of people’s livelihood and in terms of lost economic activity.”

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Graham said the report was done by using numbers from a Business Council of B.C. report done on March 27 and applying them to the hospitality, agriculture and tourism sectors.

“The analysis was conducted for British Columbia as a whole and for the Thompson-Okanagan region,” said Graham, a former senior policy analyst with the Business Council of B.C., and an advisor with the B.C. wine industry for the past 20 years.

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“In addition, I estimate the potential impact on regional business counts and the ranges of decline for domestic and international tourism to the region.

“Combined, the analysis offers a very sobering picture in 2020 for owners and employees of wineries and other beverage alcohol manufacturers, of restaurants and other hospitality operators, and those whose lifeblood is the seasonal tourism industry.”

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Graham noted, though, that the analysis is a snapshot in time during a fluid situation, and that numbers may change as new information arises.

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Contacted by Global News on Thursday, Graham said B.C.’s wine region will likely have to rely on rubber-tire tourism — visits from B.C. residents who are close enough to drive to the Okanagan.

“I think we are looking at very difficult times, particularly in the Thompson-Okanagan region through to the end of 2020,” said Graham.

“There’s such a limited period of time for most hospitality and tourism businesses to welcome visitors and to make money. I think it’s going to take quite some time for people to feel comfortable travelling to the region, even if they’re B.C.-based.”

To view the report, click here.

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