The tourism industry received some great news this week as the federal government finally announced a firm date to allow fully vaccinated Americans to visit Canada by land or by air.
Tourism has struggled while many other sectors have been able to rebound quickly and contribute to our region's economic recovery.
Starting Aug, 9, Canada will no longer require a quarantine period for recreational travellers from the US. On Sept, 7, the border will open to fully vaccinated travellers from all other countries.
The move comes late in the season for many tourism businesses that rely on summer revenue, but allows the industry to begin working on bookings for 2022.
Meanwhile, the US announced today that it won't be following suit and will keep its land border closed to Canadian travellers until at least Aug. 21.
Canada has recently surpassed the US in the percentage of our population who are fully vaccinated, leading experts to state it is now a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."
In BC, 81.1% of adults have now had at least one dose, and 59% are fully vaccinated.
The future of transportation will include a blend of public and private options, with more convenient transit and car-sharing playing roles. A recently formed citizens' group, Better Mobility Saanich, has reached out to the District of Saanich to encourage adoption of services such as Evo, which currently has a fleet available in the City of Victoria. With Evo, members are able find cars parked within a "home zone" and pay a small fee that lets you drive as needed. When you're done, you park the car back in the home zone.
The Chamber is hearing concerns from the construction industry about the provincial government's introduction of compulsory trades training. The goals and intent of the plan raise more questions than answers.
BC's construction industry is critical to our economic recovery, and we call on the province to do better at consulting with key stakeholders. We also agree with our partners in the industry that there has been a lack of evidence showing how the proposal will work. Construction employers, as with all industries, are already struggling to find workers and we can't risk red tape impeding the creation of jobs or the work being done to increase housing in our region.
“You don’t attract more people to the trades by closing the door to get into them and forcing contractors to navigate a sea of red tape,” Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Business Association of BC, told the Vancouver Sun.
The move to Step 3 of BC's Restart Plan has renewed optimism among the many businesses that had been stifled by pandemic restrictions.
"We're gradually expanding our capacity to move a little closer to whatever normal is going to be," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told CFAX's Al Ferraby. The two also discussed the need for Canada to open its border to international travellers.
Getting back to business is not without its challenges. Employers continue to struggle finding people to fill available jobs, and supply chains are still working through some of the bumps caused by extended shutdowns. The Chamber and our community partners also continue to urge the provincial government to return its workforce to downtown offices.
Williams also spoke to CFAX about The Chamber's effort to support Indigenous business and follow through on calls to action outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The Chamber Board recently approved the creation of a new task-force committed to listening and working alongside First Nations' businesses and Indigenous entrepreneurs. Another way we're supporting economic reconciliation is through a new membership program created for Indigenous-owned business.
What will the future hold for one of Greater Victoria's most iconic streetscapes? The City of Victoria is inviting the public to help shape Government Street, which looks much the same as it did 50 years ago. The time-worn benches, aging traffic signals and mature trees are nearing the end of their useful lives. The need to upgrade provides an opportunity to ensure the popular tourism spot meets the needs of the region for the next 50 years.
The first of three phases involves gathering public input for a design concept that will be shared with the community in the fall. The concept will be refined and go back for more public feedback in January 2022 before a final concept is presented to City Council.
The deadline for the first phase is July 11. You can submit ideas and images at engage.victoria.ca/government-street-refresh.
Rather than let perception become reality, we need facts and data to help all of us make better choices for our communities and economy.
Last Friday, The Chamber partnered with the City of Victoria and the Downtown Victoria Business Association to release a series of data sets showing positive signs of economic recovery, especially in downtown Victoria.
“The increase in the number of film permits and the value of construction are good indicators of how attractive Greater Victoria is to people wanting to do business here,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. “We see in the data that people are returning to typical levels of activity. We also know there is tremendous pent-up demand to visit our region and for locals to get back to dining inside, going to the movies and theatre and attending concerts and sporting events. We’re ready to go, as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
The information shows that going downtown is a safe and vibrant option as we emerge from pandemic restrictions.
On Monday, The Chamber celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day on social media, and we continue to look for new ways to support Indigenous-owned businesses in Greater Victoria.
Next week, we will announce a special initiative to help more Indigenous businesses benefit from being part of our region's business community. The Chamber is committed to being an inclusive organization and making sure we live up to our vision of being the region’s most diverse and influential business association.
The District of Oak Bay continues to look at permitting secondary suites to help create affordable housing options in the community.
The municipality is in the fourth of a five phase approach to gauge community support and look at how suites have been supported in other jurisdictions.
Housing supply is an important issue for our region. The Chamber continues to hear from members who are struggling to find and keep workers, with the cost of housing one of the main deterrents for people wanting to live and work in Greater Victoria.
It's said necessity is the mother of invention and pandemic restrictions certainly forced businesses to get creative. For the 2,000 pubs and restaurants in BC that set up patios to safely serve people outside, the changes have been so well received the province is now looking to make them permanent.
On Tuesday, the government announced businesses can apply to make their Temporary Expanded Service Areas permanent. Existing patios have also been given extensions to June 2022 to provide more time for businesses to apply.
“(Patios) have been a make-or-break opportunity for so many operations struggling through these uncommon and difficult times,” said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association. “This timely announcement, and the certainty it will afford our members in the months and years ahead, are welcome news.”
What do you think of making pandemic patios permanent? Share your thoughts by emailing email@example.com.
There are many reasons why Inclusion is an advocacy priority for The Chamber. We know we need everyone in our region to participate in our economy to meet challenges facing our workforce and to embrace new opportunities in a changing world. In Greater Victoria, local First Nations have much to contribute and The Chamber is actively working to ensure Indigenous people are engaged in our business community.
"We can learn so much from our First Nations, but we need to make the time to listen," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "Reconciliation is not simple, and The Chamber is committed to doing all we can to help this process. Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam and Esquimalt Nations Chief Rob Thomas have written a powerful commentary I encourage all of our members to read."
The essay, We are stronger together only if guided by respect, was published in the Times Colonist on June 15.