Coronavirus: Kingston tourism sector braces for significant impact

Tourism in Kingston is expected to take a major hit due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Tourism in Kingston is expected to take a major hit due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Global News

Kingston may be one of the hardest hit Canadian cities when it comes to the impact COVID-19 will have on the tourism sector, according to the city’s tourism branch.

Tourism Kingston says with the city’s strong visitor economy and robust culinary scene, Kingston is expected to be within the top five cities nationwide to see significant impacts to its tourism industry, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. As a result the organization says Kingston is one the most at-risk cities in Canada for job loss related to the accommodation and food service sector.

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“Tourism in Canada has been one of the hardest hit industries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s anticipated that 1.3 million jobs in the Canadian accommodation and food service sector will be affected in the coming months,” Tourism Kingston said Monday.

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Locally, 14 “accommodation providers” have shut down, and more than 60 restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and pubs have closed entirely. Other food service businesses have been able to remain open with delivery services, Tourism Kingston noted.

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In a media release Tourism Kingston says accommodation and food service sector jobs represent 8.7 per cent, or 7,290 jobs, of Kingston’s total employment.

“Closures and job losses will have a significant impact on Kingston’s economy. In 2019, the city welcomed 4.5 million visitors and the visitor economy generated an economic impact of $533 million.”

According to Tourism Kingston the hotel occupancy rate in Kingston has fallen to 20 per cent for the week ending March 28, 2020 from nearly 60 per cent for the same period in 2019. The organization says nationally,  occupancy has fallen 65 per cent to an average of 21.4 per cent, and it is expected to be further reduced.

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In response, Tourism Kingston  has developed a post COVID-19 recovery plan. All 2020 sales and marketing plans for  film, sport tourism, travel trade, meetings and conferences, visitor services, and marketing portfolios have been adapted in alignment with the COVID-19 response and recovery planning. So far the recovery plan includes the following:

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  • COVID-19 landing page on with links to relevant Kingston community information.
  • Sharing critical industry information with partners through the industry newsletter.
  • Hosting Greg Klassen, a travel and tourism industry strategist with Twenty31, to lead a COVID-19 webinar for the local tourism industry.
  • A retail and restaurant campaign to support businesses providing  takeout and delivery services.
  • The Together at Home: The Makers of Kingston campaign, which will include maker takeovers on the Visit Kingston Instagram for livestream performances and demonstrations. Participating artists are paid an honorarium.
  • Curating lists of Kingston experiences at home: virtual museum exhibits, musicians and music videos, shows and movies, and Kingston authors.
  • A Together at Home video will be released, encouraging the community to stay home to protect each other and to strengthen community connection during this time of distancing.
  • Three-phase marketing recovery framework developed to ensure tourism to Kingston is promoted when the time is right.

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Tourism Kingston says it remains hopeful that the local tourist industry will rebound as “historical trends show that tourism rebounds strongly following a crisis that impacts the industry, playing a crucial role in economic stability.”