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Travel Alberta CEO Royce Chwin update on COVID-19 for Alberta tourism partners

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| Royce Chwin

Dear partners,

Over the last two weeks, we have seen the tourism industry effectively shut down. No one planned for this scenario. After speaking with many of you, I know that you are struggling to keep your people employed and your businesses viable.

While ongoing travel restrictions and tightening physical distancing measures continue to restrict or eliminate tourism operations, some of you have looked into different ways to connect with your customers and manage your businesses.

This kind of thinking, supported by federal and provincial programs, have brought some positive announcements of relief for businesses and employers.

Working with our partners in government

Travel Alberta and our partners in the Department of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism (EDTT) connect regularly and share what we are hearing from destination organizations and tourism related businesses of all sizes. I want to thank everyone who responded to our outreach last week to help build understanding of how devastating this situation is for our industry.

What we heard from you:

  • The biggest challenges are liquidity and cash flow.
  • $155 million estimated total revenue losses by the end of May 2020, as reported by 153 businesses.
  • 9,000 estimated total job losses, as reported by 166 businesses.
  • In addition to the estimated job losses to-date, 10 businesses reported the deferral of at least 800 seasonal positions and contractors.

And we know this is just a sample.

The Travel Alberta team is dedicated to supporting you through these times, and we will continue to work with you as you make the most difficult business decisions while also focusing on the health and safety of your family and loved ones. We applaud your strength and resolve in doing what is necessary for your business and community right now.

Travel Alberta continues to support the provincial government’s “Stay Home. Stay Safe” message to help stop the spread of the virus. And we are committed to ensuring our communities stay as safe as possible. Recent social media campaigns by Tourism Jasper, Tourism Canmore Kananaskis and Banff and Lake Louise Tourism support this messaging.

As difficult as it is for our industry and Alberta’s economy-as-a-whole, helping flatten the curve is one of the most important things we can all do right now.

Industry support and new developments

As partners like the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), the Hotel Association of Canada, the Canadian Airports Council, the Business Council of Alberta and The Tourism Industry Association of Alberta continue to advocate for direct and immediate support for tourism, we know our provincial and federal governments are working as quickly as they can to create policy and support packages to help Canadians and businesses. And we received welcome news in recent days:

  • The federal wage subsidy now covers 75 per cent of wage costs for Canadian companies—big and small—whose revenue has decreased by 30 per cent or more due to COVID-19.
  • The Government of Canada is waiving ground lease rents from March to December 2020 for the 21 airport authorities that pay rent to the federal government, including the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority and the Calgary Airport Authority.
  • The Government of Alberta is allowing hotels and other lodging providers to delay paying the tourism levy until August 31 on amounts due to the government on or after March 27. This is expected to free up more than $5 million in additional cash flow for employers to help them retain staff and continue operating.
  • Parks Canada is deferring commercial lease payments without interest until September 2020 to help tourism operators in national parks and historic sites.
  • After concerted attempts to gain clarity on the Government of Canada website regarding arrivals into Canada, TIAC has now received confirmation that the date of "June 30" will be removed.

We continue to update the COVID-19 page on Travel Alberta’s Industry Hub to provide you with current information and resources in one place.

Looking ahead

While ensuring we maintain our support to our partners in our current state, Travel Alberta is planning for the future. The policy recommendations and whole-of-government approach outlined in the 10-year Tourism Strategy will be more important than ever to guide Alberta tourism back to growth when the time is right. At this time, the Strategy is still on the Cabinet agenda for April.

Team Alberta

Along with stories of hardship, we have also started to hear from our partners who are leaning in to help those in need. For example, Banff Hospitality Collective and other businesses in the town are donating surplus food to hostels to help feed laid off workers. And up north, Broken Oak Distillery and Latitude 55 in Grande Prairie are working together to produce and donate hand sanitizer for the Grande Prairie Regional Emergency Partnership and the community. These Team Alberta ambassadors remind us that we are in this together; and together, we will make it through.

I will continue to update you every Tuesday morning to keep you informed.

Stay strong. But more importantly, stay safe and healthy.

Royce Chwin
CEO, Travel Alberta

Previous CEO Messages:

March 24, 2020
March 17, 2020
March 3, 2020