BANFF – Federal dollars previously earmarked to attract international visitors will now be used to promote tourism within Canada, including Banff National Park.
Destination Canada, the federal tourism marketing agency, will spend $30 million over the next 18 months to encourage Canadians to holiday in their own backyards given international borders are closed to travellers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leslie Bruce, president and CEO of Banff Lake Louise Tourism, welcomes all the financial help businesses in Banff and Lake Louise can get.
While there will be benefits locally from Destination Canada’s new marketing partnership with provinces and territories, she said the exact details on how this will play out are still unknown.
“Earlier this year, Destination Canada had stated they would be doing some domestic marketing, and boy am I glad they started that because now they are going to be doing a lot of domestic marketing,” said Bruce.
“This will be of benefit heading into summer as many of our members are struggling and many businesses in our community make their money from June to September – and that’s what they live on all year.”
The funds are being redirected from Destination Canada’s existing international marketing program budget, as those efforts are currently paused as a result of COVID-19.
Under the program, each province will assess the best distribution of funds, taking into account local and regional COVID-19 circumstances, infrastructure in place to safely host visitors, and the willingness of communities to welcome travellers back, among other factors.
Officials with Destination Canada say they recognize the need to support local tourism in time for summer when most businesses make the largest portion of their annual revenue.
“Now more than ever, Destination Canada’s collaboration with industry will support a timely restart and strengthen our ability to build demand for the fall, winter and beyond,” said Ben Cowan-Dewar, board chair of Destination Canada, in a press release.
Federal government officials say this initiative is an important starting point to bolster local tourism demand and support businesses across the country when the time is right, noting tourism is a significant economic driver and a source of local jobs.
“It’s also among the sectors hardest hit by this pandemic,” said Mélanie Joly, the federal minister and economic development, in a press release.
“We’re working with the sector to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, and we’re working with tourism businesses as our economy reopens so tourism can come back stronger than before.”
In addition, the federal government has announced $3.4 million for regional tourism through Western Economic Diversification Canada to support regionally-based tourism associations.
As well, the federal government has earmarked $962 million through the new Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), of which $304.2 million is dedicated to small and medium-sized businesses in western Canada.
To be delivered through Western Economic Diversification Canada, the funds aim to help businesses impacted by COVID-19, including in the tourism sector, that in some cases may be ineligible for other federal funding.
BLLT’s Bruce also welcomed this news, noting the RRRF is another source of funding for small businesses.
“I am still working with the team to understand which businesses in our community might be eligible,” said Bruce.