The province is providing $50 million in grants to help B.C.’s largest tourist attractions and tour bus companies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s far short of the $8 million needed to save the Pacific National Exhibition and its annual fair.
“Everyone in B.C. has fond memories of visiting or working at our province’s many major anchor attractions. Many communities depend on tourism landmarks to boost the local economy, bring visitors to town and provide many young people with their first jobs,” Premier John Horgan said on Tuesday.
“We are helping these important businesses survive today so they are ready for a strong recovery, and future generations can enjoy these iconic institutions for years to come.”
The province says the City of Vancouver is responsible to support the PNE. The PNE will be applying for the $1 million grant but it falls well short of what is needed.
“We do think it is important that the government learn more about our situation. We are quite certain when they hear our story and our need, they will understand why our ask is $8 million. We have been very transparent that what we need is enough to climb out of the situation, it won’t be enough to make us whole,” PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance said.
Ballance says they are a $60 million entity and it is very hard to compare the PNE to some of the other, smaller tourism attractions.
Grants will be available for not-for-profit organizations and businesses.
Eligible expenses for the new grant include payroll, rent and utility costs related to restarting or ramping up operations in preparation for gradual reopening in alignment with provincial health orders.
Eligible attractions include amusement parks, wildlife parks, botanical gardens, heritage institutions, museums, galleries and science centres. This includes the PNE, Butchart Gardens, Science World and the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
“For large attractions entering a second year of a 90-per-cent reduction in revenue, we appreciate this funding gesture as it will help contribute toward some fixed costs like insurance or property tax,” Butchart Gardens CEO David Cowan and Capilano Suspension Bridge owner Nancy Stibbard said in a joint statement.
A major anchor attraction in an urban centre that receives 75,000 or more visitors per year is eligible for up to $1 million. Major anchor attractions in rural areas that receive 15,000 or more visitors per year are eligible for up to $500,000.
Tour bus companies that serve 30,000 or more passengers per year are eligible for up to $500,000.
The government had allocated $100 million in April’s budget to support major tourism attractions.
Non-essential travel is currently banned across health regions in British Columbia.
Officials are expected to encourage people to resume travel in a controlled way in July.