A man walks across a log into the distance. He is surrounded by large trees and ferns and is wearing a red backpack.

Photo Credit: Paxson Woelber

BC’s Tourism Grant Money Doesn’t Help Small Operators

The BC government is giving out $50 million in grant money to major tourist attractions

Will small businesses get left out?

It’s no secret that tourism on the Island has been hurting since COVID hit. Thousands of people who normally come to the Island to hike, fish, surf, and camp just couldn’t this year. Restaurants and hotels were super hard hit, but so were museums and tour companies. And because we don’t know when visitors will be able to come back, there’s a lot of uncertainty.

The BC government is giving out grants to keep big tourist attractions and tour bus companies going through the last of the pandemic. But only places that normally get more than 75,000 visitors every year can apply, which leaves out some important northern Vancouver Island spots.

According to Destination Campbell River executive director, Kirsten Soder, if we have another summer like the last one, we may lose some iconic Vancouver Island experiences forever.

She told My Comox Valley Now that “there were some marine operators and bear watchers and things that were able to salvage a bit of their season last year.” But without the money that comes in with more visitors, smaller attractions and tour operators may not survive.“ The risk of our visitor economy collapsing completely is very real,” Soder said. 

Most Islanders don’t realize that Tourism brings more money into the province than fishing, logging, and mining combined. And while having Canadian visitors really helps, nothing brings in as much money as international travellers. Tourism also supports jobs and activities for other local husinesses. There are more restaurants to work and eat at, artists get to sell their work, and we get to visit museums, theatres, and festivals.

We don’t know when international visitors will be able to come back. It’s great that the government is ready to help the tourism industry, but unless they’re going to give grants to smaller, more local companies and attractions, then a lot of people on the Island are going to suffer. Tourism is an industry we can’t afford to lose.