The visitor economy is among the sectors hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Greater Victoria, as public health officials discourage non-essential travel and promote physical distancing, hotels sit almost vacant, restaurants have been forced to adjust their service model and many attractions are either closed or reopened recently with limited operations. This has been a very difficult time for owners and operators. Survival of many businesses is uncertain, and the sad reality is some businesses will be forced to close permanently.
Destination Greater Victoria recently released figures outlining the breadth and depth of COVID-19’s impact to Greater Victoria’s economy as well as foregone tax revenues. Both the degree and immediacy of economic decline is startling in a region where tourism plays such a dominant and pivotal role in our local economy and for households across the South Island. The seasonal timing of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit tourism businesses particularly hard. Most tourism businesses receive almost two-thirds of their annual revenue from May to September, which will be adversely affected by travel restrictions in the months ahead.
Data from the World Travel and Tourism Council indicates more than 130 million job losses due to the pandemic. Locally this means potentially 20,000 job losses in the tourism sector in Greater Victoria – and more given the hundreds of other businesses who provide goods and services to our sector. Tourism is built around human capital. Our sector generates jobs at all levels for people of all ages, and we are a major employer of young adults and people with disabilities. This economic crisis has been devastating for an industry that employs two in five of Greater Victoria’s working citizens and supports livelihoods for local families.
To aid and inform recovery efforts in these unprecedented times, Destination Greater Victoria has convened some of the most deeply invested community leaders in tourism to form an industry-led rescue and recovery task force. Its purpose is to create a responsive and responsible 12 – 18-month roadmap to help guide our industry forward. Our goal is very local, to ensure our unique island location, our distinctive sector and tourism’s value to Greater Victoria’s economy are considered in government strategies and achieve real benefit from their vital supports.
We are committed to recovery – working with government partners and stakeholders to support the hardworking, entrepreneurial and innovative people in the Greater Victoria visitor economy.
Paul Nursey is the President and CEO of Destination Greater Victoria