BC's tourism industry could lose between $9.8 and $19 billion

Tourism losses cut deep

The COVID-19 crisis is going to hit the B.C. tourism industry hard.

Just how hard will depend on how quickly ground and air travel can resume.

On a webinar hosted by the BC Economic Development Association, the VP of global marketing for Destination BC painted a grim picture of losses facing the industry across the province.

Maya Lange says the industry as a whole generated about $21.5 billion in 2019, or which about $1.8 billion went to government coffers through various forms of taxation.

The industry employed about 166,000 people.

Lange laid out three scenarios based on a resumption of domestic travel within the country, a June/July opening (best case), October (most likely) and March 2021 (worst case).

2020 Best Case Most Likely Worst Case 2019
Industry Revenue Loss -$9.8B -$16.8B -$19B $21.5B
Industry Job Loss -75,000 -130,000 -147,000 166,000
Gov't Tax Revenue Loss -$0.8B -$1.4B -$1.6B $1.8B

Lange says a summer resumption of domestic travel would be the most ideal, since the three summer months account for 50 per cent of tourism revenue.

However, she indicated October is a more likely scenario.

While the industry is presently in the response phase of the crisis, Lange says they are looking ahead to both recovery and resilience.

"From the research we've seen, perhaps the recovery will begin community by community, perhaps region by region, sector by sector, and when it does, it will likely be a drive tourism market," she said.

"Where can Metro Vancouverites drive within a two or three hour radius, perhaps for a weekend getaway...and most likely will not be flying initially."

She says once the U.S. market opens again, it will also most likely be vehicle traffic only to start, meaning tourism from Washington and Oregon as opposed to further destinations such as California.

"Our third phase is resilience, when international travel resumes. In an ideal scenario that would be in the winter of 2020, but most likely it will be the spring of 2021."

In all, she says the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors of the industry will likely take the biggest hit, dropping between 60 and 85 per cent.

Accommodations could fall between 45 and 80 per cent and food services 33 to 66 per cent, depending when restrictions are lifted, or relaxed.

She says there are some positive signs globally.

"Just recently, we heard 90 per cent of hotels are now open in China, with a 30 per cent occupancy. That's up from 8 per cent during the pandemic.

"We believe that may have been due to essential travel and health workers.

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