Alberta’s tourism industry is facing the biggest challenge in its history as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Devastating probably isn’t strong enough of a word,” James Jackson said, president and CEO of Tourism Jasper.
“Significantly worse than 9/11, SARS and the financial crisis combined.”
Jackson said prior to June 1, there was a 98 per cent reduction in occupancy.
National parks have since reopened but to domestic visitors only.
Ongoing border restrictions mean there are no international travellers.
“That’s the challenge we’re in — we’re trying to make it work with a much, much smaller market size,” he explained.
“Compared to last year it’s still maybe half of what we’re used to in the summer.”
He noted 63 per cent of businesses’ revenues come in the summer months.
“An international tourist here in this province will spend six times more than an Albertan will spend,” said Alida Visbach, board chair of the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta (TIAA).
A new report by the TIAA is now calling on the province to help accelerate the recovery of the visitor economy.
It puts forward 40 recommendations across eight categories.
“It’s addressing things like continuing the stimulus for programs to help small and medium-sized business in the visitor economy,” Visbach said.
“Until they start reaching levels of about 75 per cent of their pre-COVID levels in terms of revenue generation.
“Without that kind of support, a lot of these companies are not going to survive — it’s just been too difficult.”
The report also looks at investment in tourism infrastructure, more accurate and timely research to guide that investment and the safe opening of the border.
“It’s critically important we keep our residents and visitors safe, but if we continue to have a patchwork approach to how we open our borders to international and national travellers, we could see as many as 30,000 to 50,000 people losing their jobs in this industry,” Visbach explained.
She noted the multi-billion dollar industry employs roughly 72,000 people.
“We need the government to recognize the visitor economy as critical to our economic diversity,” Visbach said.
“At the very best, we are looking at 25 per cent of revenue compared to what we would be having without the COVID situation.”
According to the report, without help, almost half of the businesses in the industry could close permanently.
“We’re not going to see any casualties within the business community until fall at the earliest if not winter and that’s when we’ll start to see the effects of this from a business perspective,” Jackson explained.View link »