Coronavirus and Tourism in Manitoba
May 27, 2020
Dear Industry Partners,
It was a pleasure to see that over 250 people joined us yesterday for the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s Town Hall. TIAC’s Tourism Town Hall series is a partnership between TIAC, Destination Canada and the local host partners, and provides an opportunity to engage small and medium-sized businesses across Canada to share information, government policy work and available COVID-19 recovery tools with stakeholders. The Town Halls allow industry operators first-hand input on issues they are facing and to hear about the efforts being made to support tourism.
We were delighted that the Minister of Economic Development and Training, Ralph Eichler, was able to bring greetings to the event, and to update those in attendance on the provincial government’s initiatives to support businesses – in all sectors, including tourism – during these challenging times, with programs like the Manitoba Gap Protection Program, the Manitoba Student Recovery Jobs Plan and the Manitoba Works Capital Incentive. These programs are included in Manitoba’s toolkit to support business recovery, foster business investment and create jobs in our province during these challenging economic times.
The Honourable Mélanie Joly, federal minister responsible for Tourism and Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages joined the webinar by video with the government’s message of support, and encouraged businesses to take advantage of federal relief programs such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program (CECRA) and the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA).
Charlotte Bell, President and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, detailed some of the critical advocacy work the association has been doing on behalf of the industry, as well as planning for recovery. This recovery plan, to be released in the next few days, will include recommendations such as a focus on federal/provincial coordination of public safety, sustained liquidity options for businesses, an extension of the federal wage subsidy program, the elimination of airport rents, and enticements to Canadians to travel, such as tax rebates. We look forward to seeing the report upon its release.
Keith Henry, President and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) conveyed the significant impact the pandemic has had on Indigenous tourism operators across the country, with 50% indicating they may not survive the crisis. As of April, 3800 permanent and 1600 non-permanent jobs have been lost, many of them in Manitoba, with the gaming and accommodation sectors hardest hit, followed by hunting and fishing, arts and heritage. However, in response, ITAC has revised its 2020/21 Action Plan, is conducting on-going research and industry surveys, and has initiated new and innovative marketing activities. Most critically, ITAC’s Stimulus Development Grant program has supported Indigenous business across the country for whom liquidity is a serious issue, and for whom bank loans are not a viable option. Thirty businesses in Manitoba applied for support under their program.
Gloria Loree, Senior Vice President of Marketing Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer for Destination Canada discussed the importance of the hyper-local and in-province markets to our industry’s recovery. She also stressed that while it is tempting to hope for a linear path to recovery, it may be more like a “radio dial” that we turn up or turn down, based on the recommendations of public health officials, as well as on a solid understanding of resident sentiment. When will Manitobans be ready to welcome visitors, and from how far a distance? This is some of the critical research that Destination Canada is conducting on behalf of the entire country, and sharing with us as we plan our next steps. Travel Manitoba is partnering with Destination Canada on its domestic marketing program, aligning our messages for residents to stay close to home this summer and discover their own province. We’re grateful to Destination Canada for their support in amplifying this message, as Travel Manitoba encourages everyone to “show Manitoba some love".
In accordance with border closures and public health recommendations, we will be executing a campaign with a strong call to action for Manitobans to travel within the province.
“Home is Where the Heart is” aligns with our overarching brand, and is a natural next step following the “Stay Home” messaging that we have been running. We want to showcase the experiences that make us love Manitoba, and the people we love to share them with, and encourage Manitobans to spend their summer here. Once travel restrictions are removed, our message will be modified to encourage “close to home” travel in near markets like northwestern Ontario and Saskatchewan.
Despite the current challenges, Travel Manitoba has a unique role to play in mitigating the impact to our visitor economy through our response and proactive recovery planning. This crisis is challenging us to work in a more nimble, flexible and streamlined manner across all areas of our corporation. And never has collaboration and our partnership with the government, TIAC, Destination Canada and you – our industry – been more important.
While we may not be celebrating this year’s Tourism Week in quite the same way, we can be heartened by the fact that we are all in this together, and together we will show that Manitoba is where Canada’s heart…beats.
Stay well, stay safe.
Travel Manitoba President & CEO