VANCOUVER — On April 1, Destination Canada (DC) hosted its second COVID-19 webinar, which featured Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, as well as Ben Cowan-Dewar, chair of the board, DC and Charlotte Bell, president & CEO, Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC).

The minister answered submitted questions from the industry and provided an update on support measures and actions being taken by government. 

“I want to remind all of us that we’re at the beginning of this and it will become more difficult,” Joly noted. “We’re working on the stimulus package. Obviously, tourism is top of mind and, obviously, we want to make sure we can help all of you and help the sector to bounce back.”

Minister Joly highlighted updates to the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan that will support businesses in the tourism sector, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and guaranteed loans through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. She also stressed that support measures are still taking shape as the crisis evolves and encouraged continued communication within the industry to ensure issues are being brought to the table.

“The Minister of Finance has done, within two weeks, the equivalent of two annual budgets, so we want to make sure what we do makes sense,” Joly explained. “This is an imperfect situation and we’re all imperfect people, but we want to learn [as] we go.”

“The restaurant and hotel sectors, and all of the tourism sector, are deeply affected. The government knows that; I know that — we hear you,” she added. “The more you’re able to bring back examples and issues, the more you’re helping me do my job…I want to know how our measures are landing.”

“It’s really important for us all to continue to work together throughout this crisis. We’re going to get through this, but we’ll only get through this if we stick together,” agreed Bell. She also encouraged members of the industry to continue sharing information on the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and the support measures needed with TIAC. “Tell us what’s working and what isn’t, because we’re feeding that information, on a daily basis, to the minister and her team.”

TIAC is currently encouraging members of the industry to complete an online survey (also available in French) in order to help the association better understand the current situation and inform decision making. 

Looking to the future of the tourism sector, the minister shed some light on strategies being discussed with DC as plans are made for the industry’s recovery. “What I think we should be doing together, is to make sure we use this crisis [to address] systemic issues within our own sector,” she explained. “What I have in mind is Canadians should discover more of our country and we support our different regions — definitely look at the issues of access and cost of access for our different regions — so we can be more resilient at home.”

“There will be international competition [for travellers],” she added. “We’ll need to work together to make sure people trust [they will be safe] in our country…that people trust destinations across the country.”

“None of us knew this would be coming and none of us were really prepared to deal with a pandemic during our lifetime,” Minister Joly said in closing. “But, as we go through this, the more we’re working shoulder-to-shoulder, together, the better the outcome will be.”

A recording of the webinar is available at destinationcanada.com. Cowan-Dewar also noted that another webinar is expected to take place in two weeks. Details for this webinar will be posted here and shared through DC’s newsletter.

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