By Breanne Massey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer
Official Opposition B.C. Liberal Tourism Critics Doug Clovechok and Michelle Stilwell recently completed four digital town halls to learn more about the economic impacts of each region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The tourism industry is flat out on its back,” Clovechok concluded after the June 10 meeting. “It’s on life support… and it’s clear that there’s absolutely no [economic] plan for tourism to survive so far.”
Clovechok who is the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) also sits on the Select Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. He has been advocating for B.C. Premier John Horgan to develop an economic recovery plan for the tourism sector and to include a tourism sector spokesperson on the Economic Recovery Task Force.
The Economic Recovery Task Force began meeting weekly on conference calls on Thursday, April 2 with Premier Horgan, Finance Minister Carole James, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness Michelle Mungall with businesses such as the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, Vancouver Board of Trade, the B.C. Federation of Labour, non-profit sectors and First Nations.
“COVID-19 is not only a public-health challenge, but also an economic one. People and businesses urgently need support,” said Premier Horgan said in a recent news release. “We will be there to protect people’s health and give immediate relief during the crisis. This task force will help us keep in close contact with community leaders to ensure the steps we are taking now are working and to plan for a long-term economic recovery after the crisis has passed.”
With nearly 70 participants from the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding raising alarm bells about their concerns for the tourism sector, Clovechok is adamant this issue demands more attention.
“We have to stress, it’s the single biggest impact the tourism industry has seen since the end of World War II,” said Clovechok.
Clovechok and Stilwell opted to run regional engagement sessions through B.C. to learn more about what small-and-large tourism operators need to promote “staycation travel” throughout their home province. Clovechok believes British Columbians need to feel safe, have some economic stability and some savings in order for the tourism sector to begin making a recovery in the long-term.
“There is a $2.5 billion GDP contribution from tourism to B.C.,” said Clovechok. “That’s more than forestry, more than agriculture and more than mining. This Premier is completely ignoring this (tourism) sector and the biggest insult is that he did not appoint anybody from tourism to sit on the board from tourism. It just boggles my mind.”
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