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COVID-19 | Tourism Sector Update | April 23rd, 2020

As the effects of COVID-19 on our tourism sector continue to be felt by small business owners, tourism marketing organizations, hotels, & other hospitality businesses, Tourism Prince Rupert continues to advocate for tourism relief & provide resources to help support recovery efforts in the months following this difficult time. Last week, we launched a new corporate website as part of these efforts. The new website is meant to be a hub of information & resources for the community and for TPR’s corporate stakeholders, offering background information on TPR and our work to market Prince Rupert, as well as a summary of available resources for the tourism sector.
 
www.tourismprincerupert.com
A New Way to Support Local Businesses

Support Local BC, in partnership with Northern Development Initiative TrustVancityThink Local First, and the British Columbia Economic Development Association - BCEDA has launched a new program across BC to support the local, independent businesses in your community by encouraging community members to purchase gift cards for future use.

These purchases will provide an injection into the current cash flow of businesses that have had to temporarily close their doors. The hope for the program is that residents will wait to use the gift cards for two months after the pandemic has passed and businesses have re-opened their locations. Otherwise, we might be causing another cash flow issue if they are used too soon.

The buyer gets the gift certificate sent to them via email. Each gift certificate has a unique number, the business’s name and the amount. The buyer will print it off and bring it to you (once we’re in the clear from the pandemic). On the back end, Support Local BC will send businesses a listing of all the gift cards bought for your business including the unique numbers and amounts.

In addition, every time someone purchases a minimum of $25 in gift cards from participating Northern B.C. businesses, Northern Development will provide an additional $25 gift card, free of charge. This is a one time gift per person, per order.

Interested local businesses can sign up at http://supportlocalbc.com/for-communities-and-businesses/

Introducing Time to Buy British Columbia!
Time to Buy BC is a non-political organization made up of small & medium business operators who want to support BC business – and protect long term jobs in BC. Today it represents the BC beverage alcohol sector, but in the future could expand to align with any BC business or manufacturer that meets the simple criteria to participate: Be a BC-based business, which locates its activities here in BC, including all management and workers jobs and ensures the income and payment cycle of its BC business adds to our local economy. In these difficult times, we need to support local first.

“We are facing serious hardships that could if we don’t act, continue long after the current crisis is resolved," says Ken Beattie, Executive Director for the BC Craft Brewers Guild. “As alcohol producers, we employ thousands of British Columbians and we are now challenged with workforce layoffs or, for some, even closures. When BC emerges from the pandemic, British Columbians will want to return to normal lives, and we will want to rehire them and to rebuild business!”

From its inception, the movement has caught the attention of major industry groups. The Alliance for Beverage Licensees (www.ablebc.com) and BC Liquor Stores (www.bcliquorstores.com), are in support of this initiative and will promote Time to Buy BC in their stores. The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (www.bcldb.com), Rural Agency Store Advisory Society (www.rasas.ca) and BC Restaurant and Foodservice Association (www.bcrfa.com) have also recognized the importance of this program and have endorsed the campaign.

Visit www.timetobuybc.ca for a complete list of the local BC craft breweries, cideries, wineries, distilleries & refreshment beverage companies you can support, including Prince Rupert's own Wheelhouse Brewing. 
New Provincial Relief Measures Announced

On April 16, the BC government announced enhanced relief measures for businesses to help owners and operators cope with the financial challenges during COVID-19.

The new steps to support BC businesses include reducing most commercial property tax bills by an average of 25%, and postponing the date that late payment penalties apply. New measures have also been introduced to support local governments facing temporary revenue shortfalls, including the ability to borrow interest-free loans from existing capital reserves, and greater flexibility to borrow for two years instead of one. 

Resources for workers and small businesses in BC.

Visit the Province's COVID-19 Supports for Businesses page to explore the wide range of supports and resources available for small businesses in BC, including:

  • Credit and financing options;
  • Supports for employees, and taxes;
  • Pivoting your business operations.
New Federal Relief Measures Announced

On April 16, the federal government announced additional support for small businesses:

  • The expanded Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) will be available to businesses that paid between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019.
  • The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) will lower or forgo the rent of small businesses for the months of April (retroactive), May, and June.

On April 15, the federal government announced expanded access to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit by revising eligibility rules. The new rules will enable the following individuals to collect the benefit:

  • Those earning $1,000 or less per month.
  • Seasonal employees who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake seasonal work due to COVID-19.
  • Those who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work due to COVID-19.

Businesses and individuals are encouraged to regularly check the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan page on Finance Canada for details on all federal programs available to them. Programs are still evolving to address any gaps in service.

The Government of Canada has also created a Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, a special initiative valued at $962 million dollars over two years, to mitigate financial pressures experienced by businesses and organizations to allow them to continue their operations, including paying their employees. The funds will also support projects to help businesses prepare for a successful post-COVID-19 recovery.

This Canada-wide initiative will be launched shortly, and will include two components:
  • $675 million to support regional economies: businesses and organizations, as well as communities in regions all across Canada;
  • $287 million to support the national network of Community Futures Development Corporations, which could provide support specifically targeting critical businesses and organizations in rural communities across the country.
Over the weekend, Canada and the U.S. reached an agreement to keep current border restrictions in place for another 30 days. 

The Prime Minister also announced up to $306.8 million in funding to help small and medium-sized Indigenous businesses, including tourism businesses. The funding will allow for short-term, interest free loans through Aboriginal Financial Institutions which offer financing and business support services to First Nations, Inuit and Métis businesses.

Finally, the government also announced a $350 million emergency fund for community and non-profit organizations. This money will go towards helping provide services to the most vulnerable, including seniors, the homeless, and people with disabilities. A portion of the funds will be distributed directly to small independent organizations with the remainder flowing through national organizations like United Way and Red Cross.
Update on Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

Beginning April 27, applications will be open for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.

  • Most businesses may apply using My Business Account
  • If you represent a business, you may apply using Represent a Client
  • Alternatively, you may apply using a separate online application form (available April 27)
Learn more about your eligibility, calculate your subsidy, and prepare to apply here. 
Small Business BC Marketplace
The recently-launched Small Business BC's Marketplace, is an ever-growing business list of places that are open for consumers to buy local. If your tourism business is currently open, listing it on the marketplace is a great way to gain visibility and customers. 

Small Business BC is also providing one-on-one support to help businesses navigate all of the available support programs. You can contact their advisors at the link below.

https://covid.smallbusinessbc.ca/hc/en-us

The Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce is also keeping an up-to-date listing of which local businesses are open for takeout or delivery on their website here
#ExploreBCLater
The Explore BC Later message has now reached over 4.2 million people across Destination BC’s consumer Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts alone, of these, we estimate that 1.5 million are BC residents. In addition to this, the Dream of Later video has now reached approximately 722,000 people in just two weeks. This is not counting the number of people who have seen the video currently airing as a Public Service Announcement on the Bell network, including CTV, the Corus network, which includes Global BC, and the Knowledge Network. 

Over the long weekend, BC Ferries reported over 80% decline in passengers across all of their routes this past weekend. Major routes saw an even bigger decline, with a 92% drop in traffic this Easter long weekend versus the same holiday period last year.

Free BC Tourism Zoom Backgrounds!
In light of the exponential growth in virtual meetings, and in particular the use of Zoom, Destination BC has created some Zoom backgrounds that show stunning BC locations with the #explorebclater hashtag.

Explore and download the backgrounds ready for your next Zoom meeting on the BC Content Hub.

Travel Advisory Updates
Please note that the following tourism-specific travel advisories are in place across BC & locally in Prince Rupert.
  • BC Ferries has announced the suspension of its regular summer schedule. For northern and mid-coast communities, BC Ferries will continue to operate at the current off-peak (winter) service levels. This means the Northern Expedition will travel between Port Hardy – Prince Rupert and Prince Rupert – Skidegate. The summer direct service from Bella Coola to Port Hardy will not be introduced at this time. Instead, service to these communities will continue to be provided by the Nimpkish and Northern Expedition. Read more here.
  • Tourism Prince Rupert is discouraging all leisure travel to Prince Rupert through our website and social media, using the suggested #explorebc...later messaging from Destination BC.
  • Note that all Air Canada flights from Prince Rupert (YPR) to Vancouver (YVR) are now suspended until May 31st. The Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace remains unaffected at this time. Read more here.
  • New measures have been announced requiring all air passengers to have a non-medical mask or face covering to cover their mouth and nose during travel. These measures come into effect at noon EDT on April 20, 2020. When travelling by air, travellers will be asked to cover their mouth and nose. Read more about the new safety measure here.
  • The Government of Canada will defer the start of Canada’s cruise season from April 2, 2020, to July 1, 2020, at the earliest. All commercial marine vessels with a capacity of more than 12 passengers are also prohibited from engaging in non-essential activities, such as tourism or recreation. BC Ferries has issued an advisory to avoid non-essential travel until further notice. Read the official statement here. 
  • The following parks & trails in Prince Rupert are closed indefinitely:
    • Prudhomme Lake Provincial Park
    • Diana Lake Provincial Park
    • Kitson Island Marine Provincial Park
    • Rushbrook Trail
    • McClymont Trail
    • All municipal parks & playgrounds, including Sd52 school playgrounds
  • BC Parks has closed all Provincial Parks in British Columbia. Read the statement here.
Summary of COVID-19 Resources
For a complete summary of the local, provincial, federal, and tourism-specific resources available, please visit our COVID-19 resource page at the link below. 
 
www.tourismprincerupert.com/covid-19
For up to date information on the effects of COVID-19 on the tourism sector in British Columbia, please visit https://www.destinationbc.ca/news/coronavirus-update/
 
Tourism Prince Rupert will be working hard to provide you with email updates regarding any new advisories or support programs as they are announced.

Please note we are only providing new information each week. For access to our past newsletters, please visit our Newsletter Archive page.

If you have any questions, please contact:

Ceilidh Marlow
Executive Director, Tourism Prince Rupert
Phone: 778-361-0440
Email: ceilidh@visitprincerupert.com

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