Minister of Economic Development Melanie Joly rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 1, 2020. Joly says federal marketing strategies may need a shift away from attracting foreign visitors to Canada for the foreseeable future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Minister of Economic Development Melanie Joly rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 1, 2020. Joly says federal marketing strategies may need a shift away from attracting foreign visitors to Canada for the foreseeable future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Federal tourism efforts to focus on going local to help hard-hit sector, Joly says

The government plans to back low-interest loans of up to $1 million that can be repaid over 10 years

Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly says federal marketing strategies might need to shift away from attracting foreign visitors to Canada for the foreseeable future, as COVID-19 keeps suppressing travel.

She and her international counterparts have agreed that domestic travel is likely to take priority even after vaccinations begin.

Efforts earlier this year to redirect $40 million in marketing budgets yielded some results, Joly says, citing high attendance at Banff National Park in Alberta and visitors to Quebec’s Gaspé region.

The government will likely keep that approach until the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror.

Joly says in an interview that the strategy will likely be to first promote people travelling within their regions, then to travel across the country.

She says international efforts would come last, once officials in this country are sure other countries have widespread vaccination efforts that would protect Canadians’ health and safety.

But waiting it out won’t be easy for many businesses. Travel is down and the tourism sector was hit earlier and harder by public health restrictions.

Although the country has recouped just over four-fifths of the approximately three million jobs lost during spring lockdowns at the outset of the pandemic, over one-quarter of the remainder are in what Statistics Canada refers to as the accommodation and food services sector, which includes tourism operators.

READ MORE: Consumer rights advocates call for airline refunds in Parliament hearing

Some tourism businesses were unable to operate at full capacity or earn enough during the summer travel season to make it through the winter.

“Targeted help for those employers will be needed for some time to ensure there are jobs to return to when the pandemic is over,” said Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada.

Last month’s fall economic update offered to inject some long-sought support.

The statement set aside $500 million for regional development agencies to spend on tourism businesses through to next June, trying to bolster a sector that normally employs about 750,000 people and makes up about two per cent of gross domestic product.

It also outlined a new loan program for highly affected sectors like tourism. The government plans to back low-interest loans of up to $1 million that can be repaid over 10 years once things bounce back, Joly said.

“Then they can generate revenues, potentially more revenue than they thought even possible, because people will want to travel,” she said in an interview this week.

“That will help them eventually be able to repay some of the loans and basically get through this tough time.”

Joly couldn’t say exactly when the loan program will become available. She said work is underway with the Business Development Bank of Canada on the fine details, and negotiations with banks to make sure rates offered are below what is currently offered in the market.

“We know that time is of the essence,” she said.

And although this measure wasn’t directly pointed at the tourism industry, the sector had asked for the federal wage subsidy to return to covering 75 per cent of eligible payroll costs and a revamped rent-relief program, both of which are now in a bill before the House of Commons.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Photo from Highway 11 Functional Planning Study)
Public input wanted for Highway 11 improvement plan

Round 2 of public online engagement continues until March 10

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

Seniors in the 65-unit Piper Creek Lodge are among those waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta senior lodges anxiously waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations

“Should be at the front of the line, not the back of the line”

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

A SAGA member (left) poses as Jessi Hanks (right) with Castle Restaurant puts up a safe space sticker to display on the restaurant’s front door. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
SAGA Wetaskiwin works with local businesses to display they are a safe space

The safe space stickers show that its a safe and inclusive space.

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during their appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta Appeal Court orders 3rd trial for parents in toddler’s meningitis death

Stephans were accused of not seeking medical attention sooner for Ezekiel, who had meningitis when he died

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

Poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with more men believing equality had been achieved

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
Race, title and anguish: Meghan and Harry explain royal rift

Meghan said she struggled with concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin colour

Kiara Robillard is seen in an undated handout photo. When the pandemic began, Robillard had to rush back home to Alberta from California, where she had been living for five years, after she was struck by a truck that broke her spine in two places. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiara Robillard, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘It kind of clicks:’ Text4Hope program helps with depression, anxiety during pandemic

Participants receive one text message every morning for three months

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

Most Read