By: Lynn Desjardins
Canada’s visitor economy saw unprecedented losses in 2020 due to the pandemic and is by far the most threatened sector in the country’s economy, says Destination Canada. This body promotes tourism and, as a crown corporation, it is wholly owned by the government but operates at arm’s length from it.
One in every 10 jobs in Canada is said to be tied to tourism, and unemployment in the sector is 6.6 per cent above the national rate, higher than any other sector. Many of its employees are women, immigrants and youth who have been hardest hit by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The visitor economy helps sustain 150,000 jobs. But Destination Canada says it faces an estimated $19 billion shortfall that could be made up if Canadians shifted two-thirds of their planned spending on international leisure travel to travel at home.
‘Canadians have the power’
“Canada’s visitor economy isn’t just a key pillar of our country’s economy, it’s critical to our collective quality of life,” said Marsha Walden, President and Chief Executive Officer, Destination Canada. “We all miss our favourite restaurants, our art galleries and our music and cultural festivals. We all rely on the airlines that connect us to friends, family and business colleagues, and bring the world’s products to our doorstep. It’s devastating to lose so many businesses and services in our communities. Canadians have the power to change this by spending their travel budget in Canada.”
Destination Canada notes that from April to November 2020, revenues from air transportation for passengers collapsed, falling 91 per cent and accommodation revenues plummeted by 71 per cent. Small and medium-sized businesses make up 99 per cent of enterprises in the tourism sector. The corporation calls the current situation the worst the tourism industry has ever seen, more severe than that following 9/11, SARS and the 2008 economic crisis combined.
‘Enhance our quality of life in Canada’
Walden urged Canadians to help restore it. “We are all fortunate to live in this incredibly beautiful and diverse country with breathtaking experiences from coast to coast to coast—now is the time to plan on exploring our backyards when safe to do so. This is how each and every Canadian can enjoy our country while meaningfully helping the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods enhance our quality of life in Canada.”