Canada’s $102-billion tourism sector hopes to salvage some business through regional trips and late-summer events, in a June 10, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A room with a bleak view: Hoteliers forecast more pain and a long, slow recovery

1.8 million Canadians work in tourism industry

As the summer travel season dawns, hoteliers and the broader tourism industry worry they will be hit longest and hardest by the COVID-19 crisis as confinement measures begin to lift, but travellers remain largely unwilling or unable to cross borders.

Canada’s $102-billion tourism sector, already hammered by a near total dropoff in commercial and leisure travel, hopes to salvage some business through regional trips and late-summer events.

To ride out the crunch, hotel operators are calling for a delay on debt and property tax payments while tourism groups are demanding more clarity from government on inter-provincial travel guidelines.

Downtown Toronto’s SoHo hotel, which laid off 85 per cent of its staff after closing on March 20, plans to reopen in July or August, despite reports Wednesday of an extended border shutdown with the United States until late July.

General manager David Kelley said visits to the city may creep up as restaurants and tourist attractions unlock their doors, but that “local leisure” can only generate so much business.

“The Rogers Centre, CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium…with all of these things not allowed to be open, it really risks what’s going to happen this summer in terms of the leisure market,” he said.

“The big issue is, will people want to come? The one thing we can’t control is what’s in someone’s head. What’s the confidence level?”

The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario said one-quarter of its members have closed temporarily and one in three has laid off more than 75 per cent of their employees.

More than half of the 1.8 million Canadians who work in the industry have lost their jobs, according to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

In Kingston, Ont., the sector has been “devastated” by the absence of sports events, music festivals and business conferences, while fixed costs such as utilities bills and property taxes remain, albeit with payment deferrals from municipal governments, said Krista LeClair, who heads industry group Kingston Accommodation Partners.

“It’s completely gone dark,” she said, with rooms selling for as low as $20 per night.

The ripple effects are severe as well.

“For inns or AirBnBs, when the larger hotels sell out those other properties benefit from trickle-down business,” LeClair said. Small businesses affected range from caterers to DJs to laundry services.

The occupancy rate of the Kingston-area accommodations sector dropped by two-thirds to 21 per cent between mid-March and mid-May, she said. About 95 per cent of staff have been laid off.

Kingston Accommodation Partners is asking the province for greater financial relief in the form of grants and loan forgiveness as well as a government directive for insurance companies to honour business interruption claims.

“It’s up to the government to either tell the insurance companies to honour the claims for business interruption insurance now, before hotels declare bankruptcy, or to implement a moratorium on mortgage payments for hotels and a moratorium on realty taxes until hotel occupancy is at 50 per cent,” said Cassie Prosper, who represents a group of Ontario hotel owners.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2020.

CoronavirusHotels

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Red Deer has nine active COVID-19 cases

Number of cases increased by 107 Friday

“My world exploded,” says Bentley-area farmer who’s swather was struck by a motorist

Dennis Duncan was a mile from home when his swather was struck by another travelling at high speeds

Man sentenced to 7 years for gas-and-dash death of Alberta gas station owner

Ki Yun Jo was killed after Mitchell Sydlowski sped off in a stolen cube van without paying for $198 of fuel

New owners of Sylvan Lake Canadian Tire looking to be big part of the community

Randy and Alison Patton are the new owners of Sylvan Lake Canadian Tire

Notley to stay on as Alberta NDP leader for 2023 provincial election

The NDP took almost all of Edmonton but few seats outside of the city

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C., Alberta sending nearly 300 fire personnel by Friday to help battle wildfires in Oregon

Some 230 firefighters, most from British Columbia but including a number from Alberta, will be deployed Friday

Death of mother grizzly a ‘big loss’ for bear population in Banff park: experts

The bear, known as No. 143, spent most of her time in the backcountry of Banff

U.S.-Canadian border closure reportedly could extend through November

The border between the two countries has been closed to non-essential travel since March 21

Threat of fall federal election eases as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

Congeniality emerged as fears of second wave of COVID-19 were heightened after another case increase

Intoxicated male arrested by Ponoka RCMP passes away after fall

Incident remains under investigation by ASIRT

Most Read