High-interest rates and uncertainty over the state of the economy are behind the tourism industry slowing down after its fast recovery from the pandemic. A report by TD titled "A Slow Road to Recovery for Canadian Tourism Spending," states the industry won't fully recover until about 2025.
Current tourism spending is at about 87% of where it was in 2019.
"Although more price-conscious tourists could weigh on profit margins in the sector, slower demand growth may allow the industry time to overcome labour shortages," the report states.
In BC, tourism employment is the highest its been since 2018 as employers work to overcome challenges finding and keeping staff.
Greater Victoria tourism earns environmental rep
Back in May, Greater Victoria received some love from a feature in Vogue about how we "became a sustainable travel hotspot." the article identifies a number of Chamber members who have helped make Greater Victoria green, including:
Some good news for Greater Victoria's tourism economy as the Victoria Airport Authority approved a proposal to build a 129-room hotel. The three-storey hotel, one of Marriott International’s extended stay brands, will be located on 3.5 acres of commercial zoned land at the corner of Highway 17 and Beacon Avenue West.
“The addition of the TownePlace Suites Hotel at YYJ will provide travellers and visitors to the region with convenient access not only to the airport and Sidney, but also to the many amenities and services in the area and the Pat Bay highway into Victoria,” Victoria Airport Authority President and CEO Geoff Dickson said in a news release.
The all-suite hotel will have studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units with fully equipped kitchens, a gym, pool and 1,500 square feet of meeting space. There will also be a full-service restaurant.
Preparations for construction on site will begin in the fall and the hotel is expected to be completed in time for summer 2025.
Housing supply is at the core of Chamber advocacy. Greater Victoria, like much of North America, is facing a crunch — not enough homes are being built to meet demand. This affects the cost of living for employees, delays people from starting a family and impacts the availability of shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
A group of Canadian housing sector organizations recently released the National Housing Accord: A Multi-Sector Approach to Ending Canada’s Rental Housing Crisis. The report offers 10 solutions that aim to focus the efforts of all levels of government and industry on policies to support more building.
"It's a bit of a Catch 22 in that we need skilled tradespeople to build homes so that the market has enough supply for skilled tradespeople to be able to afford to live here," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The lack of housing affects people at all income levels but is particularly concerning for people early in their careers and those who have the added costs that come with raising kids."
Inflation is running hot in Canada, though the relationship between higher prices and the likelihood of the Bank of Canada raising rates is "complicated." The rate was 3.3% in July compared to 2.8% in June. Some of the higher costs are directly related to interest rates, which make some mortgages and loans more expensive and impacts renters as well as homeowners. The summer heat also caused energy demand to soar, and the war in the Ukraine continues to impact food prices worldwide.
The Bank of Canada has been clear that tamping down inflation remains its priority. That means another raise in interest rates remains on the table next month. However, the Conference Board of Canada reports that inflation could be feeding on itself as consumers and businesses have come to expect prices to keep rising.
How is your organization dealing with cost uncertainty? Share your stories or advice for other businesses at email@example.com.
If the dialogue around remote work seems to have changed from "when is your team going back to the office to how can you adopt a hybrid workplace," you're not alone. The Canadian Chamber's Business Data Lab shows that North American cities are adapting to a new reality. Employers who are facing challenges finding and keeping workers are embracing workforce mobility as a solution. However, the change requires new strategies for ensuring the economic health and safety of urban cores that have lost jobs to the suburbs. The Chamber is working with our regional partners to rethink the role of Downtown Victoria so that it continues to be the vibrant centre of our regional economy.
"We know that our suburban downtowns are thriving, and that's good news for a lot of municipalities in Greater Victoria," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "What we also need to do is make sure that Downtown Victoria continues as a major draw for tourists and a great place to live for residents. Of course, the way we do that is making sure we have a great climate for businesses to thrive so they can provide the goods and services that attract visitors and support locals."
Housing supply is emerging as the root of many challenges facing Greater Victoria and the economy of Canada as a whole. To try and address some of the foundational causes of a lack of housing, the Community Social Planning Council has released a toolkit for local government. Local Government Levers for Housing Affordability addresses how housing affects everything from "staffing shortages to wage pressure to homelessness."
The document gathers policy tools that have been used successfully by large and small municipalities across the country.
A panel of experts has been tasked with developing a Community Safety and Well-Being Plan for the City of Victoria. The goal is to address multiple complex issues such as "declining civility and social cohesion, increasing social disorder, inadequate housing supply and homelessness, poverty, inequality, addictions, mental and physical health challenges, criminal activity and other factors."
The panel will work over the next 15 months to advise Victoria council on immediate interventions as well as long-term solutions.
"I’m in frequent contact with the business community throughout the downtown and beyond and I’m consistently hearing that the impact of the pandemic is far from over," Fort Properties Ltd. CEO/co-owner Suzanne Bradbury said in the city's news release. "I believe that this is the right initiative at the right time and I’m honoured to bring a small business perspective.”
Along with Bradbury, the panel includes:
In Greater Victoria, The Chamber serves as the voice of business by amplifying what we hear from our members. We can then further raise the volume by working with our national network to include the questions and concerns of more than 200,000 businesses across Canada.
A recent example is the 2024 pre-budget recommendations submitted by the Canadian Chamber to the federal government. The submission calls for for investment in trade-enhancing infrastructure, easing the burden of doing business, facilitating the transition to net-zero, enabling an innovative economy, attracting and retaining talent and taking a lead role in life sciences.
To learn more about the work done by The Chamber's Public Policy and Advocacy committee, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Canadian economy continued to show resiliency this spring. Statistics Canada reports that Gross Domestic Product stayed in positive territory. The Bank of Canada will make its next interest rate announcement on Sept. 6.
Business leaders will be watching closely as high-interest rates used to fight inflation have a direct impact on the cost of investment. A Globe and Mail interview with CIBC World Markets' deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal is a good read for insights to help cut through the confusing times. Tal said he thinks interest rates have peaked or are close to the peak. He added that conditions are right for rapid growth in business investment in 2025 as inflation subsides and productivity increases thanks to innovations such as AI.
The City of Victoria is considering a program that will help spruce up the look of businesses in the downtown core. The Business Façade Beautification Reimbursement Program is on the agenda for Thursday's council meeting. The city and the Downtown Victoria Business Association would split the cost of the program.
“This is an incentive to the property owners and the businesses on that block to join together and make their block look better," DVBA CEO Jeff Bray told the Times Colonist. "And I think when you do that over a handful of key blocks, it will be very noticeable.”
The Township of Esquimalt and the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce introduced the Business Façade Improvement Project this year.
"As the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, we support investment in our very important downtown centres," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "They're not all the same, of course, but they all need to be safe communities. The best way to do that is to support community pride led by local business."
The blue skies of summer appear to reflect the sunny disposition of spenders, according to July's Consumer Confidence Index.
The Conference Board of Canada reported an increase of 5.5 points over the previous month. The long range outlook was more moderate, though it seems a majority of Canadians are hopeful that better economic times are ahead.
In BC, consumers were buoyed by the provincial benefits handed out to more than two million people. The climate tax credit and increased family benefit helped individuals facing higher costs due to inflation.
"We encourage everyone who has been helped by these benefits to remember the importance of helping local business," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "Investment in the economy works by supporting the people in our community who provide the goods and services we all rely on."
Arriving at work to find your storefront window smashed or property vandalized can be a nightmare for business owners and their staff. Dealing with the cost of repairs or insurance paperwork can add to the anxiety.
A new provincial program starting in the fall will help businesses invest in preventative measures, and assist with the clean up if a property crime happens. The $10.5 million Securing Small Business Rebate Program will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023.
Businesses can apply for up to $2,000 to help cover the cost of cleaning up broken glass and graffiti and up to $1,000 for vandalism prevention such as security cameras or gates.
The Chamber is calling on the federal government to give businesses who needed help during the pandemic more time to repay their Canada Emergency Business Account loans.
A letter to the federal Finance Minister was signed by more than 240 Canadian business organizations.
"Extending the repayment timeline for the CEBA loan without losing access to the forgivable portion would give many small-and-medium size businesses the stability and certainty they need to get back on their feet on a path to prosperity," states the letter.
Chamber CEO Bruce Williams spoke to CFAX Radio this morning to explain why many businesses need extra time. Across Canada. almost 900,000 CEBA loans were approved during the pandemic.
"Many businesses had no choice but to take on this loan due to circumstances beyond their control," the letter states. "This includes businesses in some of the hardest hit industries such as the retail industry and tourism sector. Mandatory business closures and other government health restrictions left businesses with severe income losses and cash flow issues."
Businesses that need help protecting their intellectual property will have access to a new set of tools through Innovate BC. The province gave Innovate BC $2.5 million to leverage $12.5 million from the federal government going to Accelerate IP.
The investment aims to help the growing knowledge sector of the economy, which includes creators and innovators. Understanding the legal and financial implication of IP can be complex, and the new tools will help make the process easier.
It's been far from a smooth process bringing an end to the strike affecting Canada's Western ports. The "off again on again" strike created a significant disruption to supply lines on the Island and across the country.
The strike has kept $9.9 billion worth of goods from flowing smoothly from the ports to businesses and consumers, according to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.
"Every day that the strike is going adds to the uncertainty that many businesses are feeling," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "I spoke with a number of chamber members and we are concerned for smaller businesses that don't have large warehouses to store inventory. Many of these businesses rely on efficient shipping to get specialty foods, parts or items based on current demand. It's also a stressful time for businesses that rely on the ports for exports. Hopefully the backlog caused by the strike will clear up as soon as possible."
Island communities cut off by wildfires received some good news as the province announced Highway 4 will reopen to limited single-lane travel starting this weekend.
Fallen trees and debris that had been blocking the route have now been cleared. As well, mesh curtains suspended by cranes are being deployed to protect passersby as the impacted slope continues to settle alongside the highway.
An alternate route continues to be used by about 1,000 vehicles daily, helping ensure essential goods are available. Tourism support includes increased flights so that visitors can bypass the affected road.
It's official. Hockey fans across Canada will have their full attention on the Inner Harbour as the City of Victoria plays host to Scotiabank's Hockey Day in Canada. The announcement was made by Hockey Night in Canada legend Ron McLean during a broadcast of the Stanley Cup Finals last week.
Hockey Day in Canada in Victoria will include about 14 hours of national broadcast time on Jan. 20. The event is being organized by the Victoria Hockey Legacy Society, chaired by John Wilson of Wilson’s Group of Companies,
All seven Canadian NHL teams, as well as the WHL's Victoria Royals, will be in action on the day. The games will be interspersed with live programming from Ship Point.
One of the physical legacies from the event will be a 24-by-12 metre synthetic ice sheet that will be available to the community for up to 30 years.
Last Thursday, The Chamber hosted Bank of Canada Deputy Governor Paul Beaudry for the unveiling of the Bank's Economic Progress Report at the Victoria Conference Centre. Two hundred business and community leaders were at the event, sponsored by Odlum Brown, the City of Victoria and Grant Thornton.
Beaudry's speech and Q&A session with Chamber CEO Bruce Williams offered fascinating insight into how the bank decides on raising interest rates.
"On behalf of all Chamber members and our board, I'd like to thank Deputy Governor Beaudry for taking the time to speak with us," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "He was able to answer some of the questions on the minds of many members, and many Canadians judging by the widespread media coverage Victoria received because of this event."
The speech was followed by a press conference that was attended in-person by local media as well as virtually by financial journalists across the country.
Recent good news about a strong economy and job market is bad news for the fight against inflation. That's the message from the Bank of Canada, which raised its interest rate today to 4.75%.
"Consumption growth was surprisingly strong and broad-based, even after accounting for the boost from population gains. Demand for services continued to rebound. In addition, spending on interest-sensitive goods increased and, more recently, housing market activity has picked up," the bank said in a news release. "The labour market remains tight: higher immigration and participation rates are expanding the supply of workers but new workers have been quickly hired, reflecting continued strong demand for labour. Overall, excess demand in the economy looks to be more persistent than anticipated."
What that means for Greater Victoria's economy, and whether a recession is unavoidable will be hot topics tomorrow, when the bank's Deputy Governor Paul Beaudry speaks at a Chamber Business Leaders Luncheon.
A new Indigenous business directory was launched in Greater Victoria today with a goal to support Indigenous economic reconciliation by building new relationships and connections.
The South Island Indigenous Business Directory is the result of work of community partners, including The Chamber.
"The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of our members, is honoured and humbled by the work done to establish an Indigenous Business Directory," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The Chamber is committed to taking actions towards reconciliation and inclusion and we are working to connect Indigenous entrepreneurs and First Nations with the broader business community. We can all benefit from being more inclusive and incorporating the knowledge of people who have called this region home for time immemorial."
The new directory provides opportunities for relationships, growth and partnership between community members and the many Indigenous-owned businesses across the South Island. From graphic design, art and web design to engineering, project management and catering, the directory currently features more than 50 Indigenous companies.
View the directory at indigenousbusinessdirectoryvi.com.
There was a slight increase in real estate sales in Greater Victoria in May, with 775 properties sold compared to 761 in May 2022.
The uptick was good news for the real estate industry, though sales are still not as high as typically seen in spring. The optimism that had been starting to grow could be short-lived however after the Bank of Canada opted to further raise interest rates today. Time will tell if the move stalls potential buyers or if it encourages more people to put their homes on the market.
"With momentum building, there’s an indication of consumer optimism in the market heading into June," Victoria Real Estate Board Chair Graden Sol said before today's rate announcement. "However, if the ongoing lack of homes for sale
persists and inventory is not added, we risk a return to an overheated market with pressure on pricing.”
The benchmark value in May for a single family home in the core Victoria municipalities was $1,297,600. That's up from $1,295,800 in April, but almost 9% lower than the benchmark value in May 2022.
The Chamber applauds the ongoing investment in new workers through the Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning Pathways. Camosun College received $240,625 in funds for 2022/23. and, this year, the province is providing $3.8 million to help students earn pre-requisites for post-secondary programs they need to meet career goals.
The provincial government released the first cohort of municipalities that have been targeted to increase housing supply. The City of Victoria as well as the District of Saanich and the District of Oak Bay are on the list.
The Housing Supply Act allows the province to set housing targets that encourage municipalities to make construction more efficient so housing can be built faster. Some of the suggested tools include updated zoning bylaws and streamlined approval processes.
“The housing crisis is hurting people and holding back our economy, and we’re taking action with our partners to cut red tape and get homes built faster for people. Municipalities are our critical partners in addressing the housing crisis and building healthy, economically viable communities,” BC's Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon said.
“We welcome being part of a first wave of communities challenged to accelerate building homes for people," Victoria mayor Marianne Alto said. "These targets reflect the city’s own commitment to housing current and future Victorians.”
The other municipalities are Abbotsford, Delta, Kamloops, North Vancouver, Port Moody, Vancouver and West Vancouver. A second cohort of 10 municipalities will be announced later this year.
Every year, The Chamber gathers comments and concerns from our members in order to present them to the province's all-party Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. The committee travels BC to consult with businesses and residents about budget priorities for the year ahead.
Public budget consultation closes June 16, at 2 pm, and The Chamber will have an opportunity to address the panel at a later date.
You can share your thoughts directly or send them to email@example.com. We'll gather feedback and help amplify individual concerns as the voice of business for Greater Victoria.
"Hello Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland."
That famous line will no doubt be repeated often between now and next January, when Greater Victoria hosts Hockey Day in Canada.
The formal announcement is planned for June 5, with Ron MacLean making the call at 4:30 pm during a Stanley Cup finals broadcast. A media conference will be held at Ship Point at 1 pm, and will include Chamber past-chair John Wilson, who is chair of the Victoria Hockey Legacy Society.
Hockey Day in Canada started in 2000, and moves to cities and towns across the country. The broadcast spans 14 hours and attracts millions of viewers annually.