An organization that looks to help develop Saskatoon’s businesses is reporting the city’s economy has recovered more than half of the ground lost from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA) has created a tool to measure how the city is responding following a year of health measures and travel restrictions.
The Saskatoon Economic Recovery Tracker (SERT) shows it has reached a 58.5-ttper cent recovery.
SERT weighs different kinds of data like the unemployment rate, gross domestic product and retail sales to determine the figure.
The 58.5 per cent figure is a 10-point jump from where it stood in December.
SREDA noted that’s due to a strong housing market, high commodity prices and retail sales returning to pre-pandemic levels.
“A variety of different positive factors there. Put those all together and there are small gains in each of those. But that goes to contribute to the increased number,” CEO Alex Fallon told Global News.
However, one sector continues to see few, if any, gains.
Tourism, travel and hospitality in the region is still hampered by capacity limits and travel deterrents.
SERT shows airport passenger traffic is at 13.8 per cent of where it was this time last year while the hotel occupancy rate is around half of its March 2020 figure.
Saskatoon businesses in that industry are doing all they can just to keep the lights on.
“They’re hanging on by their nails right now,” said Hospitality Saskatchewan CEO Jim Bence.
“Thank goodness that our government has come to the table with a number of support programs because that has really allowed a great many of them to be able to just hang on.”
Those programs are helping more than just hotels and restaurants.
Travel agents and operators are preparing for another rough 10 months.
“The way 2021 is looking, we’re looking at probably another year of virtually no income. But we’re here. We’re hanging in here,” Ixtapa Travel Saskatoon president Barbara Crowe said.
She added while ‘staycations’ are helping their bottom line, they don’t match up to the earnings brought in from international bookings.
Crowe notes many travel agents work on commission and it has forced some of her employees to find a second job.
With some operators offering refunds, that money is coming straight out of their bank accounts.
“When you’re a commission salesperson and you’ve already spent that money buying groceries and paying your mortgage and perhaps a car payment, it kind of really hurts,” Crowe said.
In December 2020, Tourism Saskatoon anticipated the sector wouldn’t fully recover until 2024.