May 7, 2020, Toronto – We are only weeks away from Canada’s unofficial launch of summer – the Victoria Day Weekend. And while residents dream of visiting their favourite places when it is safe to do so, they will be met by the stark devastation of their communities. The current relief efforts are not helping the businesses that make neighbourhoods a great place to live and visit.
Almost 100% of attractions in Canada – from your local bowling alley, family entertainment centre and movie theatre, to huge seasonal businesses like Canada’s Wonderland – have been shuttered since mid-March. In a report dated March 27, Destination Canada, a Crown corporation owned by the government of Canada, predicted that within 60 days, 60% of attractions might close permanently.
“Attractions are an integral part of the fabric that makes the community a vibrant place to live, work and visit,” says Troy Young, CEO of Attractions Ontario. He asks: “What are you going to do with your family and friends if everything around you is closed permanently? How is your hockey association going to host a tournament with nothing for teams to do in the evenings?” Attractions are the leading influencer of peoples’ decisions to go somewhere; if these businesses no longer exist, other hospitality businesses in the community will suffer - restaurants, hotels, retail, etc.
Attractions are falling through the gaps of the current measures; seasonal businesses do not currently qualify. A 75% wage subsidy does not help attractions that have had to furlough their staff, and the new rent assistance is falling flat with landlords.
Attractions Ontario is calling upon the Federal Government to step up and save this vital industry through a new initiative they call Save Our Attractions (www.saveourattractions.ca). The goal is to draw attention to the unique challenges faced by attractions across the country; and to ensure Canadian Communities remain a vibrant place to live, work and visit. As a result, they are requesting the federal government to do the following:
· Provide a government grant made up of the HST earned by the business during the last two quarters of 2019
· Provide forgivable loans through banks but funded and guaranteed by the federal government, paid back through newly generated HST. With no revenues coming in, traditional bank ratios won’t work
· Extend the CEWS to the end of the quarter following the reopening of attractions
· Make adjustments to the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program
“These businesses are shut because they were ordered to,” says Young, “And rightly so. As the economy reopens, attractions will face additional restrictions, including health & safety and capacity measures. Add to that a lack of visitors to help them recover, and you can see why, without help now, our neighbourhoods are going to be missing some great places.”
Destination Canada pegs the aid at $15 billion; the government just announced a $9 billion aid package for students. Most programs the government enacted are aimed at individuals who have been laid off; aid should also be given to the businesses to ensure these individuals have jobs to return to.
“The most frustrating part of this,” muses Young, “is the government has known about this looming crisis now for 38 days and has not acted. There are only 19 days left in their original 60-day prediction. Why is it taking so long for them to act?”
Tourism Quick Facts
- Tourism is Canada’s 5th largest sector and accounts for 10% of Canadians’ jobs and 2% of our GDP
- The tourism sector is unlikely to bounce back quickly. The summer season (July-August) accounts for 36% of the tourism sector’s annual revenues and almost all of their profits.
- Attractions will continue to struggle even if they are allowed to open this summer; many will struggle to remain viable over the next 12-14 months. If we remain closed (or with a partial opening), tourism businesses will lose 58% of their annual revenue.
- Sixty-one thousand tourism businesses (57% of the total) across the country are projected to fail by May 31, resulting in a loss of 1.7 million jobs.
- 54% of attractions across the country are at risk of closing by May 31, accounting for 76% of attractions jobs (276,000).
- Growth of consumer debt and the slowing of international travel will have an impact on the sector’s ability to recover.
- Tourism in Ontario contributes $4.2 billion in taxation to both the Federal and Provincial governments
About Attractions Ontario
Attractions Ontario is a non-profit association, dedicated solely to optimizing attendance for their member attractions. As the only province-wide trade association dedicated exclusively to the attractions sector of the tourism industry, Attractions Ontario members encompass over 500 public and privately-owned attractions in numerous categories such as amusement parks, historical sites, cultural activities, arts & entertainment and adventure tourism.
On commercial rent assistance - “None of our five commercial landlords have participated in the rent relief program—quite the contrary. Two of them raised our rent! I had to cancel three of my leases and still don’t know how we will be able to pay the rent. Why start a program that people aren’t going to use? More help is needed.”
- Glen Shackleton, Owner
Haunted Walk Inc
“Business Owners aren’t asking for handouts. We’re asking for consideration after years of paying taxes and supporting the economy. We’re reminding the governments that 80% of Canadians own or are employed by small businesses like mine.”
- Aaron Binder, Chief Experience Officer
Go Tours Canada
Director of Communications