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Editorial: We can help hard-hit tourist businesses

Tourism-related businesses in Cowichan have seen revenues drop by as much as 40 per cent
Janet Docherty of Merridale Cider was part of a delegation to the Cowichan Valley Regional District in May of 2021 that described how difficult things have been for the tourist industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Citizen file)

The pandemic has been tough, really tough for a lot of businesses.

While Amazon may be booming, the local shops that make up our communities and count on foot traffic have been hit hard. These are our local businesses that pay taxes that support the amenities we enjoy in our communities. These are the businesses that sponsor our local sports teams and contribute an item or two for the silent auction of your favourite charity or non-profit. They employ local people.

Two of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic have been tourism and the arts. It’s no accident that these two are often intertwined, as are areas like the restaurant industry.

We got a glimpse into just how hard things are for many of those in tourism when members of Tourism Vancouver Island and Tourism Cowichan Society went to the Cowichan Valley Regional District board as a delegation this month.

Some of the bleak statistics: tourism-related businesses in Cowichan have seen revenues drop by as much as 40 per cent. About 37 per cent can’t pay their bills and 21 per cent are temporarily closed.

Think bed and breakfasts and other accommodation businesses, Chemainus Theatre Festival, Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, restaurants, wineries, wedding venues, and festivals. Anything that counted on a big crowd has been totally out or reduced to a fraction of the size. Anything that drew a lot of tourists from overseas has been out of luck due to travel bans.

While camping saw a boom, the whole point was to have as little contact as possible with anyone besides the group you came with.

And one must consider that a great many businesses in our communities that aren’t technically strictly tourist businesses benefit greatly from the influx of visitors coming to town and spending money. Think everything from boutiques to artists and artisans.

It’s important to consider that the end may still be a long way off for tourism businesses. International borders and vaccination rates are still big question marks and could well remain so for months to come. It may be years before international travel regains some normalcy.

That’s why the organizations representing tourist businesses are asking people to think about availing themselves of local tourism opportunities for weekends and vacations.

It’s not a sacrifice. It’s more of a win-win. There is a reason people from all over the world travelled here before the pandemic hit. We have amazing places to stay, eat and play. This is our chance to discover some of them if you haven’t before, and to come back if you have.