Coronavirus and Tourism in Manitoba

April 24, 2020

Dear Industry Partners,

As we continue to flatten the curve in Manitoba and see positive signs of light at the end of the tunnel in the battle against COVID-19, the focus is increasingly on the recovery of our economy.  
So we are very pleased that this week, the provincial government announced the Manitoba Gap Protection Program (MGPP) that will provide $120 million in support to small and medium-sized business that have suffered due to COVID-19. The program is available to approximately 120,000 businesses that fail to qualify for the various federal government assistance programs and wage subsidies created because of COVID-19. 
The province will advance each eligible business a non-interest bearing forgivable MGPP loan of $6,000. The loan will be forgiven on Dec. 31, 2020, if the recipient attests at that time the business has not received any major non-repayable COVID-19 federal supports such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the Canada Emergency Business Account, as well as sector-specific grant federal programs specifically developed in response to the pandemic. If the applicant has received benefits under a federal COVID program, then the loan will be added to the recipient’s 2020 tax bill.

To be eligible for the MGPP funding, a business must:

  • have been operational on March 20, 2020, the date the Manitoba government declared a province-wide state of emergency under The Emergency Measures Act because of COVID-19;
  • have temporarily ceased or curtailed operations as a result of a COVID-19 public health order and have been harmed by the health order;
  • be registered and in good standing with the Manitoba Business and Corporate Registry;
  • have not qualified for federal government COVID-19 grant support; and
  • have an email address and a bank account.

We were also pleased to see the Government of Canada made a number of funding announcements over the last week that are relevant to Manitoba’s tourism sector, including:

  • Parks Canada will work with tourism operators in national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas to defer payments on commercial leases and licenses of occupation without interest until September 1, 2020.
  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is now available to workers that had an income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application, allowing seasonal workers to qualify. 
  • A $500 million COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for culture, heritage and sport organizations that will address the financial needs of affected organizations so they can continue to support artists and athletes was announced.  
  • Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and the Community Futures Network will receive $962 million to assist small businesses.  A guide for contacting your RDA can be found in the links here.

While we understand that these and other federal funding programs have been beneficial for many, our industry has concerns that are not currently being addressed, such as the Canada Wage Subsidy program not being available for those seasonal businesses that open as late as June 1, the CERB program acting as a potential disincentive for part-time or lower income workers to return to work by earning a higher level of income through the program, and nationally-based closures that do not take into consideration the readiness of provinces as mandated by provincial health officials.  
Liquidity continues to be a pressing issue with many businesses, which often have to refund thousands of dollars in deposits from cancelled events and hotel reservations while at the same time having little or no revenue. Many businesses are unable to access most federal programs with the exception of the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), which provides interest free loans for small businesses up to $40,000. However, many credit unions are not yet able to process these applications, limiting its accessibility in the short term.
These are just some of the concerns that Travel Manitoba is helping to raise at the national level. I encourage you to continue to reach out if there are unique challenges you are facing that are not being met. We are all in this together to find solutions as we make our way to recovery. And I encourage to review the latest update that Travel Manitoba has prepared on the available programs and resources available to industry as a result of COVID-19.  

In addition to our own research and that of other provincial organizations like the Winnipeg and Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and tourism sector associations, Destination Canada is conducting an extensive amount of research to help provinces anticipate the impact of COVID-19 going forward and make solid research-based decisions. They have worked with leading research organizations Tourism Economics and McKinsey & Company to provide the first of several reports on the impact of COVID-19 on Canadian tourism and on sustaining Canada’s tourism sector through COVID-19. Find the reports here.
As we close out another week, I want to thank you for your resilience during this most challenging time in our industry. We all need to work together to create the conditions for a clear road to recovery.

Stay safe, stay well, stay home,

Colin Ferguson signature

Colin Ferguson
Travel Manitoba President & CEO

For previous industry messages see March 13 | March 20 | March 27 | April 3 | April 9 | April 17