A trail along Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park, southeast of Kelowna. Photo: Tourism BC

A trail along Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park, southeast of Kelowna. Photo: Tourism BC

OPINION: Hoping for broader support and better days ahead for tourism sector

Now as we turn the page on 2020, there is room for optimism

By Anthony Everett, Vice Chair – BC Regional Tourism Secretariat

There is no sugar coating the fact that 2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for businesses that are the lifeblood of our tourism industry. For many, it’s been a year in which they have simply tried to keep their heads above water while watching the collapse of the visitor economy and hoping for some semblance of normalcy and viability in 2021.

The BC Regional Tourism Secretariat (BCRTS) and its five regional tourism associations represent more than 8,000 tourism-related businesses which include everything from adventure tourism operators, restaurants, accommodators, to campground operators and artists.

The regional associations have a unique and decades-long relationship with tourism businesses at a grass-roots level and have established themselves as a trusted advisor. The relationship proved invaluable during provincial wildfire and flooding events in 2017 and 2018. Our Associations proved to be the only organizations that could conduct region-wide research and provide quantifiable data on the impact to operators, which in turn informed government policy and funding decisions.

In 2020, a crisis of a different kind emerged in the form of COVID-19, and again, because of the unique relationship with operators from a grassroots perspective, the BCRTS and it regional associations once again assumed an important role.

At the onset of the pandemic, the role we traditionally play as a destination management advisor shifted to one of pandemic support, response and advocacy. Over the last several months, regional associations have worked with tourism businesses to help them adapt and respond to evolving health guidelines and collect important research that has helped inform the development of recommendations and decision-making of government.

The BCRTS also established the BC Tourism Resiliency Network, to more formally support providers and through which, a team of experts in health and safety, human resources, finance and strategic planning were enlisted to provide a suite of expertise. To date, more than 1,500 registered businesses have been provided with one-on-one support.

Our governments have taken action to cushion the blow for many in the tourism sector, including providing funds to help rebuild the sector through BC’s Economic Recovery Plan – while now considering other means of support, including BC Tourism Task Force recommendations and how the Small and Medium sized Business Recovery Grant Program can be accessed by as many tourism operators as possible.

This challenge requires all of us – all levels of government, regional and local tourism and economic development agencies, to continue to work in unison to support economic recovery. It has been encouraging to see all of the various partners come together, speak with one voice, work in a collaborative manner, and put the dire situation facing the sector and businesses, first and foremost.

Now as we turn the page on 2020, there is room for optimism. Vaccination programs are starting to roll out and there will come a point when travellers will once again be looking to BC as a vacation destination.

The challenge and opportunity will be to ensure we are positioned to create safe and memorable experiences for British Columbians, Canadians and eventually, international visitors. Until we reach that point, the BCRTS and regional associations are committed to serving the industry and supporting operators in every way possible to build the sector back – together.

Anthony Everett is Vice Chair of the BC Regional Tourism Secretariat, a collaboration between five regional destination management organizations (Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association, Kootenay Rockies Tourism Association, Northern British Columbia Tourism Association, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, and Tourism Association of Vancouver Island) representing more than 8,000 tourism businesses and organizations.

Tourism

Just Posted

A key in the lock of a door. (File photo)
Sicamous residents say lack of long-term rentals detrimental to town

A couple who have lived in Sicamous for 27 years and want to stay might have to leave

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Brodie Stuart and her mom, Mikel Stuart, gather for the celebration at Parkview Elementary on June 18, 2021. (Zachary Roman - Eagle Valley News)
Three Shuswap parents honoured for combined 34 years of volunteering

Parkview Elementary parent advisory council members surprised by appreciative flash mob

Centennial Field in Blind Bay will be the site of Market by the Bay on Thursday nights starting June 24, 2021. (Columbia Shuswap Regional District photo)
Forty vendors expected for new Market by the Bay in the South Shuswap

Market starting June 24 to be situated at Centennial Field in Blind Bay

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to collect donations ahead of Kristy Handel’s 33-kilometre run for Chelaine McInroy (pictured) to cover costs for a new prosthetic leg after her June 12, 2021, surgery. (GoFundMe)
Salmon Arm woman runs to raise funds for friend’s new prosthetic leg

33-kilometre Run for Chelaine to help athlete cover medical costs from latest surgery

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

Most Read