Nova Scotia inn owners call for grants, extended subsidies and tax relief

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Nova Scotia’s inns are struggling to stay afloat after getting no reservations, only cancellations.

Accommodation owners are not only suffering the lack of tourists, but the lack of government support. Inns were not mandated to close during the COVID-19 pandemic, making them ineligible for grants.  

“Our particular sector has been falling through the cracks,” says Inns of Nova Scotia (INNS) president Erika Banting.

INNS represents 16 seasonal and year-round inns around the province, employing 100 people. On Monday morning, they sent a letter to federal and local government officials calling for special assistance.  

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Since March, INNS members have lost more than half their bookings for this year, and the number is growing.

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Banting and her husband run the Tattingstone Inn in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

“We’ve had 217 cancellations in March and April and we’ve had maybe half a dozen bookings in that time,” she says. 

“Generally we’re used to experiencing six to eight bookings a day.”

The government’s current relief measures, she says, do not help small to medium accommodation businesses like Tattingstone Inn.

For example, Nova Scotia implemented a one-time grant of 15 per cent of usually generated revenue for a time period. However, an inn can only claim a grant if they have restaurant in place, operating at the time. Banting says most do not.

She says if the grant didn’t only apply to restaurants, she could have received a $4,300 grant. Instead, Banting got $700.  

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Another concern is that the current wage subsidy program expires in the beginning of June.  “When it expires, there’s no subsidy so we can bring back employees,” says Banting.

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Inn owners can still apply for loans, but Banting believes that’s not enough. “Increasing our debt isn’t going to help us moving forward.”

INNS is calling for subsidies to be extended until at least the end of the year.

They also want a break for commercial tax because even though they are technically open, they are not operating.

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Geoff MacLellan, Nova Scotia’s minister of business, said in an email that the government’s initial focus has been on businesses that had to close.

“We know the tourism sector has been hard hit and needs to be looked at separately.”

Some businesses may need individual support, he says. “We’re not in the tourism season yet and we can’t predict the true impacts.”

Banting hopes that the letter from INNS helps governments understand how the pandemic has impacted accommodation owners.  

“Moving forward if they want independent small and medium businesses … to survive, we need some assistance from them.”

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