On Monday, Canada opened its borders to international visitors. The move will give another boost to the tourism sector trying to make the most of the last few weeks of summer.
Visitors don't need to quarantine but do need to meet criteria set out by government. International travellers must show proof they are fully vaccinated at least 14 days before entering Canada. They also need to supply the negative results of an approved COVID test within 72 hours of arriving in Canada.
The opening of the border has attracted attention of travel media, such as Men's Journal which recently included Victoria among its suggested places to visit.
Grants of up to $250,000 are now available to help sports, arts and cultural events get back up and running safely. The provincial government opened the application process last Friday for the Fairs, Festivals and Events Recovery Fund.
A total of $12.9 million is available in one-time grants for up to 20% of an event's budget. Funds can be used for "operational costs, health and safety measures, venue rental, marketing, wages and promotion." Applications are being accepted until Oct. 1 for events that occurred after July 1, or which will take place before Sept. 30 of next year.
"Eligible events include sport, arts and culture events, community celebrations, agricultural fairs, rodeos and exhibitions," states the news release from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culutre and Sports. "Applications submitted by organizations will be required to demonstrate local or regional support and show the economic and social benefits for the community."
On Monday morning, Chamber CEO Bruce Williams brought concerns raised by our members and Chamber Champions to BC's Select Standing Committee on Fiance and Government Services.
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce was asked to present to the committee along with the Burnaby Board of Trade, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and Surrey Board of Trade. These organizations are leading advocates for business in BC and help government set priorities ahead of next year's BC budget. Among the many issues raised were finding and keeping workers, fair taxation and fiscal prudence.
"We thank the province for including the voice of Greater Victoria businesses and we look forward to continuing to working closely on programs and policies that will be key to growing our region's private sector," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said.
You can listen to Bruce's comments to the committee, starting after the 9:28 mark.
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce was proud to offer leadership and advocacy in collaboration with Destination Greater Victoria, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority as well as Island chambers of commerce and our regional municipalities. As the voice of business, The Chamber continues to work tirelessly on behalf of our members to make a difference in public policy through advocacy.
“Our marine border is a vital link for our region and we’re thankful the Canada Border Service Agency has found the capacity to staff ferry terminals in the Inner Harbour as of Sept. 7,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said.
“The Victoria Clipper and Coho Ferry connect Greater Victoria with Washington State, which is extremely important for our tourism sector. When land and air borders were initially opened to Americans on Aug. 9, we were alarmed that our marine borders were not included. On behalf of our community partners, The Chamber reached out directly to the federal government and Prime Minister’s Office to make sure they knew how important this link is to our region’s economy.”
Finding staff is a major challenge for businesses, especially in the hospitality sector. The issue is affecting businesses across the province, and, on the Sunshine Coast, one group seems to have found a temporary solution. Coasters helping Coasters is a group of mostly retired seniors who are filling in at restaurants and cafes in Sechelt. Their aim is to help keep their businesses open, but they say the idea could work anywhere.
What do you think about seniors stepping up to help fill vacancies in Greater Victoria? Tell us your thoughts and share your solutions by emailing email@example.com.
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.
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 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.
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.