BC tourism stakeholders ask Liberals to get answers from NDP

Tourism worries about future

B.C.’s tourism industry just wants to hear a COVID-19 restart plan, and the Liberals are vowing to hold the NDP’s feet to the fire until that happens.

That was the message during a two-hour Zoom discussion late Wednesday afternoon between the B.C. Liberal caucus and business representatives from around the province.

“What is the plan for bringing safe, international clients back into this country when it’s safe to do so?” Guide Outfitters Association of BC executive director Scott Ellis said. “If we don’t survive this, if we don’t survive what’s happening today, we don’t have to worry about investor confidence, we don’t have to worry about the future, because we’re going to be living under cardboard houses downtown.”

It’s clear tourism stakeholders feel the $105 million that has been pledged by the government to help the industry isn’t enough. They are currently more concerned about the decisions being made at the government level that are affecting people’s travel plans.

JJ Belanger, who is the general manager of Tofino’s Crystal Cove Resort, isn’t happy with what he’s been hearing out of Victoria, pointing out there was talk from the government about a tourism restart plan before the October election.

“It’s been crickets ever since,” Belanger said. “There was also talk about rapid testing to alleviate some of the restrictions and border closures. Again, crickets.”

He said the province’s decision to limit alcohol sales on New Year’s Eve—on Dec. 30—was just one example of incompetent leadership. Dr. Henry’s latest four-week ban, issued on Jan. 7, is another decision that has irked Belanger, who is also bothered by mixed messaging.

“What are the decisions being based on?” he asked. “Is it science? Because there’s no data to back any of this up.”

Teresa Wat, who is the Liberals’ tourism critic in Victoria, agreed with Belanger that Dr. Henry has not created clear guidelines and plans to put the screws to Tourism Minister Melanie Mark to improve the situation for such an important industry in B.C. and especially in the Okanagan.

“My thought is she doesn’t know what the tourism industry is about,” Wat said. “She doesn’t have a clue what the restart plan is about. Believe me, I’m going to push her hard.”

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