Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport
I wanted to reach out to you today to acknowledge the impact the floods and extreme weather is having on winter tourism businesses after an already incredibly challenging year. The damaging weather systems, stressed supply chains, travel restrictions and limited transportation corridors are yet again a test to our endurance, but one that together, I know we will overcome.
My ministry staff continue to work with Emergency Management BC, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and across government to ensure we are sharing the latest information with people throughout the tourism sector, and particularly those in the rural, Indigenous and winter tourism industry that are about to embark on a second season within the pandemic. We are also conveying your concerns and feedback as we work towards short-and-long term solutions. We appreciate the leadership, flexibility, and supportive approach you have taken over the past 20 months.
We know how important winter holidays are, especially now for families and for tourism businesses. Staff in my ministry and I have been working with tourism representatives and airlines on alternative avenues for safe travel for the holiday season. With today’s change to essential travel orders for Highway 3, intercity buses are now permitted for non-essential travel. This means there are options for bus transportation from the Lower Mainland to Kelowna and Kamloops through companies like Ebus, Rider Express and Mountain Man Mike’s Bus Service. There is also an increase of air travel options coming online as airlines work to increase their capacity at Vancouver and Abbotsford airports into the Interior. Airlines have come to the table to get people to where they want to go without impacting traffic levels on our roadways.
The Coquihalla now has an earlier estimated reopening for commercial traffic. It is moving up to early January and that is positive news, but we know the damaged highways are challenging for winter tourism businesses. Some of Destination BC’s co-operative marketing funds will be used to promote alternative routes for travel, including airline partnerships and use of non-impacted highways, as restrictions are lifted, and will continue to work with these partners to keep these options in place beyond the immediate need.
Destination BC continues to work diligently on up-to-date resources for travelers including road information, flight options, travel restrictions and more on their Know Before You Go webpage, which is updated regularly. Our collective efforts are focused on the challenges of right now, which includes building a strong ski season throughout British Columbia and promoting ways to safely access and enjoy all B.C. winter tourism has to offer.
In closing, I would like to make sure you are aware of financial supports that are available to business owners who have been impacted by recent extreme weather events, including:
If you or someone you know needs support, visit gov.bc.ca/BusinessDisasterSupport or call Small Business BC at 1 800-667-2272.
Thank you for all that you are doing to keep your staff, communities and guests safe. Thank you for stepping up, helping those impacted and punching above your weight class. Please continue to reach out to ministry staff with your ideas and concerns. We will get through these challenging times if we continue to paddle together.
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