An influx of visitors to Greater Victoria is providing a healthy boost to businesses catering to tourists. BC's Interior is suffering from a prolonged wildfire season and a surge in COVID-19 cases. The unfavorable conditions there are suspected as one of the reasons for the increase in visitors to our region.
Downtown Victoria Business Association executive director Jeff Bray told CHEK News that retailers are seeing a trend of people who changed their vacation plans and are visiting Vancouver Island instead of the Okanagan.
Tourism statistics for July have not yet been released, but Chemistry Consulting's numbers from June show a healthy increase from 2020, though still far cry from June 2019.
The Chamber supports BC's immunization efforts and we believe the evidence shows COVID-19 vaccinations offer our best chance to put the pandemic behind us.
However, mandating vaccination for BC employers requires taking care to ensure human rights are respected. Unlike the US, where the Department of Justice has opined that employers can require employees be vaccinated, BC's Human Rights Commission has issued general advice for treating people differently based on their vaccination status.
Essentially, the commission says workplaces must balance the need to be safe with avoiding discrimination against people who have adequate alternative means for preventing COVID-19 transmission.
The lack of clarity means the issue will be front and centre with HR departments for the foreseeable future.
Victoria is legendary for the number of places you can go for a meal or grab a drink, and now Destination Greater Victoria has crunched the numbers to prove the city really does have more restaurants, pubs and bars per capita than any other in Canada.
According to DGV's analysis, Victoria has 4.6 eateries and watering holes per 1,000 residents. That compares to 3.6 for second-place Vancouver and third-place 3.4 for Niagara Falls. The data came from Statistics Canada’s June 2020 Canadian Business Counts for restaurants, eateries, pubs, and bars, while the population figures are from the 2016 Census.
Find your next culinary adventure and help support a local business! #ChamberLocalVicBC
The BC Day long-weekend was a boon for tourism and hospitality businesses, with reports of full patios and dining rooms, and sold out ferries.
Hotels and attractions are also reporting an influx of tourists even as businesses continue to struggle finding and keeping workers. We expect this double-edged blend of increased vibrancy and staffing challenges will only increase after Canada re-opens the border on Aug. 9 to fully vaccinated travellers from the US.
The end of restrictions is welcome news but also comes as concerns grow over the Delta variant. It's now the most common strain of COVID and spreads quickly among unvaccinated populations. Fortunately, Greater Victoria has some of the highest immunization rates on the planet, with almost 90% of people 12 and up having had a first dose and almost 70% fully vaccinated. To ensure that trend continues, the province has launched a new campaign, Vax for BC, with initiatives such as today's Walk In Wednesday, where anyone in need of a first or second shot can show up without an appointment.
The Chamber applauds all of our members who are immunized, and we encourage everyone to share their vaccine photos. Don't forget to tag us and be a #ChamberChangeMaker!
It's time to get the Citizens' Assembly process back on track. In 2018, voters in the District of Saanich and the City of Victoria gave a mandate to their respective councils to explore the pros and cons of merging the two municipalities. The good faith discussions were interrupted by the global pandemic, but they're far from forgotten. In fact, recent news about policing challenges shows how vital a Citizens' Assembly might be for the future of our region.
The Chamber has long advocated for Better Regional Services. We don't know what a Citizens' Assembly will find, but it is the right approach to get answers to questions about governance — and merging services such as policing — in Greater Victoria's largest municipalities.
As the province moves closer to Step 4 of the BC Restart Plan on Sept. 7, it's time for the Citizens' Assembly process to get back on track.
The British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI) has reported it ended its fiscal year on March 31 with $199.6 billion in managed assets and a net return of 16.5% for its pension plan clients.
BCI's CEO and CIO, Gordon Fyfe, told Black Press a shift to managing assets in-house freed up $3 billion. Those savings are now being invested as well as covering the cost of 400 new employees.
“It certainly helps the economy. We now have 600 people managing $200 billion based here in Victoria. Rather than everybody around the world taking that money from our pensioners, that money’s staying here in the province," Fyfe told Black Press.
The provincial government announced grants of up to $1 million for major tourism businesses last Friday, answering calls to help this hard hit sector. Grants of up to $500,000 were also available for tour bus companies and rural attractions.
The funds were approved for 83 business across BC, including a number located in Greater Victoria.
Recipients in our region include The Butchart Gardens, Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum, Prince of Whales Whale Watching, LA Limousines and Wilson's Group of Companies.
“The sector called on government to provide grants, not loans, and we worked with tourism sector leaders to make sure these vital businesses and non-profits can continue to employ residents and draw visitors to attractions throughout BC," Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Minister Melanie Mark said Friday.
The funds will help the industry with its ongoing recovery as the number of visitors from across Canada increases. The border is set to open to US travellers on Aug. 9, providing another boost for tourism businesses.
With 62% of eligible British Columbians fully vaccinated, we are in a very good place this summer. The pandemic, at least for our region, is starting to feel almost over as COVID-19 becomes another communicable disease we know how to control.
However, the virus continues to spread among unvaccinated people. On Tuesday, the province announced a new campaign to make it easier to reach people who weren't able to participate in the initial immunization rollout.
The Vax for BC campaign will shift focus from mass clinics to mobile ones, making the process more convenient. On Aug. 4, all clinics will also offer walk-in service for people who have not registered.
The Chamber is part of the national Faster Together initiative, whose studies show that 14% of Canadians are hesitant about vaccines. The majority of those say they have questions and want access to qualified health professionals before they get their shot. Let's hope this new campaign can give them the answers they need.
If you are an employer looking to transition your COVID-19 Safety Plan to a communicable disease prevention plan, WorkSafeBC offers a guide for employers.
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.
We asked for quick action and the government responded.
Last week, Transport Canada announced that, effective Nov. 1, it was ending the prohibition of cruise ships in Canadian waters. In the weeks before, The Chamber joined the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and a number of community and business organizations calling on the government to set a re-open date. A firm date is necessary for the industry to begin planning for a return to Canadian ports.
“We needed government to make it clear that cruise ships are welcome in Canada, and we needed a date so that industry can plan to return as soon as possible. I’m happy that the federal government heard us and understands the importance of this industry to our region as well as to Canada’s economy,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told Douglas Magazine. “The GVHA has done tremendous work making Greater Victoria a great port, and a lot of businesses will be thrilled to see the ships back with their passengers and crew enjoying our city. There is so much potential for this industry and we look forward to continuing to advocate for the investments and projects that will help make the cruise industry an important and sustainable economic driver for many years to come.”
The GVHA says cruise adds $130 million to our region's economy and creates more than 800 jobs. Revenue from cruise tariffs allows the authority to support popular spaces such as the Ogden Point Breakwater and the Inner Harbour Lower Causeway.