By Chad Ingram
The COVID-19 pandemic stands to wallop the province’s tourism industry and earlier this week the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario released a series of recommendations designed to ease the financial burden for tourism operators.
“COVID-19 has had a dramatic and severe impact on the tourism industry in every corner of our province” Beth Potter president and CEO of TIAO said in a statement. “We know from our own comprehensive consultations with our members on the front line that businesses are closing revenues have fallen off a cliff staff are being laid off and seasonal businesses will not open in the summer. Tourism in Ontario generates $36 billion in annual receipts and for the communities in which tourism is an integral part of their economy; the short-term impacts of COVID-19 will be significant and long lasting.”
TIAO has been conducting a series of surveys amid the outbreak and its most recent data shows that 59 per cent of tourism businesses are closed temporarily and that more than 20 per cent are at risk of closing permanently in three months’ time. Nearly 40 per cent of tourism businesses in the province have laid off staff and of those business more than 40 per cent have laid off all or close to all of their staff. More than 65 per cent of Ontario’s tourism businesses saw a decline in sales/revenue in March of 2020 from March of 2019 and for more than 40 per cent of those businesses that sales/revenue decline was more than 50 per cent. More than half of seasonal tourism businesses have said they will not open this summer.
While TIAO acknowledges that unprecedented amounts of government aid have been made available to assist businesses the organization is also recommending additional measures including a moratorium on commercial rent and mortgages; increased access to interest-free loans; increased access to direct financial aid; and debt forgiveness. The province has extended the deadline by which municipalities must pay their education taxes which means municipalities have been able to extend the deadline by which residents and businesses must pay their property taxes. “Unfortunately there is no uniformity across the province so some businesses have not felt that relief” a press release from TIAO states. The organization says complete relief from commercial property taxes would help even more.
TIAO is also asking that the provincial government work with insurance providers to provide relief for tourism operators and is encouraging insurance providers to co-ordinate and process business interruption coverage claims for businesses that have had to close during the pandemic. “This would include operational costs incurred during this period and that insurance companies forgive interest on renewal payment plans” a release from TIAO reads. The organization is also requesting that insurance premium rates be held at 2019 rates for 2020 for impacted businesses and that an insurance moratorium be co-ordinated for businesses that are able to remain open.
“We continue to examine and evaluate the economic needs of our industry and work with all levels of government to deliver economic recovery packages that will allow tourism to continue to foster innovation and culture and drive the economy in the coming years” the release reads.