Gutted by COVID-19, travel and tourism industry pleads for aid from Ottawa

Gutted by COVID-19, travel and tourism industry pleads for aid from Ottawa

Representatives of Canada's COVID-19-crippled travel and tourism industry are warning of mass layoffs and large-scale bankruptcies if the federal government fails to step up with aid for the sector. MPs on the House of Commons industry committee heard grim stories on Monday about the devastating toll the pandemic is taking on the travel and hospitality sector. Industry leaders said existing federal programs either don't help their members, or aren't enough to keep businesses afloat. Charlotte Bell, president of the Travel Industry Association of Canada, said while other businesses have been allowed to gradually reopen, the tourism sector continues to take a beating due to travel restrictions and border closures. "The visitor economy is unlike other sectors. We can't provide curb-side products and services nor can we sell experiences online to keep the lights on," she said. Bell called for a government-backed loan program, which she said is critical because banks will not extend loans to those businesses deemed too risky. She also pushed for an extension of the federal wage subsidy program until May 2021 to avoid mass layoffs and bankruptcies. The federal wage subsidy program covers 75 per cent of wages, up to $847 a week per employee. Bell said the government should also consider tax credits or grants for the hotels, conference centres, airports and others that are spending millions to make their locations safe through signage and infrastructure. "These are maybe stop gaps, but they're not going to save the industry. The industry needs liquidity and it ...
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