COVID-19 Updates & Recommendations

For the most current information, please visit this page regularly.
WTABC is updating the information below as new updates become available.

The WTABC has been monitoring industry and government recommendations in light of the evolving impact of the COVID-19 virus on tourism. Tourism is an important aspect of the global economy and presenting a measured, informed and consistent approach will benefit both travelers and the travel industry.

For the most up to date health information regarding British Columbia, Travel Operators, Wilderness Tourism Staff and Travelers should visit the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) site and the British Columbia’s Centre for Disease Control. Relying on the media for accurate reporting is not recommended.

You have likely received calls from guests wondering about implications of cancelling or deferring their trip. One of the keys to keeping your season intact is increasing your guests confidence that they will be safe traveling to, during and leaving their trip. And if necessary, that they will be treated fairly if their trip has to be cancelled. Below are recommendations compiled from various government and industry sectors to help you navigate this difficult time.

BUSINESS IMPACT SURVEY

WTABC has developed a short survey in conjunction with the BC Commercial Bear Viewing Association to gather information on the financial impacts to the adventure tourism operators resulting from the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation. Please take five minutes and complete the survey.

Financial Support

The WTABC is keeping abreast of promises made by the Government of Canada regarding compensation for affected businesses and will assist its members with claims. The provincial government confirmed it is working with its federal counterpart on support for affected workers, and on broader supports for the B.C. economy and impacted industries.

CURRENT FINANCIAL RESOURCES BEING PROVIDED BY GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

(click on the green links below to find out more about each program)

MARCH 27 UPDATE

On March 27 the government announced the following support for small businesses:
[FULL PRESS RELEASE]

WAGE SUPPORT

For employees continuing to work, employers can receive a temporary wage subsidy equal to 75% of renumeration for qualifying businesses, for up to 3 months, retroactive to March 15, 2020

GST

All Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) payments can be deferred until June, as well as customs duties owed for imports.

INTEREST FREE LOANS

The new Canada Emergency Business Account will provide funding to eligible financial institutions so that they can provide interest-free loans in the form of lines of credit of up to $40,000 to businesses with payrolls of less than $1 million. A quarter of this loan (up top $10,000) is eligible for complete forgiveness. Loans are to be repaid within one year.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Employment Insurance Benefits – on March 25 the government announced to establish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This taxable benefit would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CERB would be a simpler and more accessible combination of the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit. Check the Canadian Government COVID-19 Employment Insurance (EI) Notification Page for application details and updates. The application form will be available through a Government of Canada portal on April 6. 

Flexibility for Businesses Filing Taxes – government is allowing all taxpayers to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of income tax amounts owed on or after March 18 and before September 2020. This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.

The Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada (EDC) will provide more than $10 billion of additional support, largely targeted to small and medium-sized businesses. Applications available on each website.

For further details (mortgages, individual tax return deadlines, etc.) visit: Support for Canadians and Businesses  and Helping Canadians with the economic impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

CURRENT FINANCIAL RESOURCES BEING PROVIDED BY PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

(click on the green links below to find out more about each program)

Province Press Release – March 23, 2020

Effective immediately, businesses with a payroll over $500,000 can defer their employer health tax payments until Sept. 30, 2020. Businesses with a payroll under this threshold are already exempt from the tax.

In addition to the employer health tax, the Province is extending tax filing and payment deadlines for the provincial sales tax (PST), municipal and regional district tax, tobacco tax, motor fuel tax and carbon tax until Sept. 30, 2020. The scheduled April 1 increase to the provincial carbon tax, as well as the new PST registration requirements on e-commerce and the implementation of PST on sweetened carbonated drinks, will be delayed and their timing will be reviewed by Sept. 30, 2020.

Business and light- and major-industry property classes will see their school tax cut in half. This will provide $500 million in immediate relief for business that own their property and allow commercial landlords to immediately pass savings on to their tenants in triple-net leases.

In the longer term, the recovery plan will dedicate funding to particularly hard-hit parts of the economy, such as the tourism, hospitality and culture sectors. The B.C. government is partnering with business and labour leaders to build an economic stimulus plan. The Province has allocated $1.5 billion for economic recovery.

TIABC in conjunction with WTABC and several other tourism organization have sent a letter to Honourable Lisa Beare Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture outlining Proposed Government Measures to Assist BC’s Tourism and Hospitality Industry. READ LETTER

IF YOU REQUIRE ASSISTANCE IN APPLYING FOR COMPENSATION PLEASE CONTACT US.

Recommendations for Tour Operators

  • Review DestinationBC’s recommendations for businesses in light of COVID-19
  • WTABC is working closely with TIABC, read TIABC Updates 
  • Consider your cancellation policy carefully and decide whether it will benefit your long-term relationship with your travelers to offer refunds or credits or no cancellation penalties to encourage future bookings. Do not assume travelers insurance will cover the cost for the guest.
  • Monitor countries on your itineraries to understand if border closures or traveler bans may create problems for your travelers when returning home
  • Consider if it is best to cancel your trip to protect your traveler’s health and ensure a good experience
  • Offer any support needed regarding hotel, air, and transportation cancellations
  • Communicate regularly to your clients and guests
  • Keep you and your staff safe by following these TIPS

Preparedness Tips

WTA members can plan on how they need to adapt to the current situation. The aim is to provide your clients with the confidence to hold their bookings, while keeping staff and clients healthy in the process. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, rather a place to start planning. Having a viable response plan in place will help increase guest confidence and hopefully help save bookings.

Have a plan to deal with trip cancellations, passengers becoming ill during a trip, insurance coverage changes, flight interruptions, etc. Start contemplating scenarios like this and determine work-arounds or exit strategies. If you don’t already have an emergency response plan now is the time to create one. See Prepare BC for a primer. 

Many of your clients will travel to their destination by air. This makes the airline industry the first level of screening. Be informed what the airline industry is doing and saying to keep their seats filled.

They are as anxious you are to keep their business functioning. They are focusing their communications on providing factual information: What their cleaning protocols consist of, how the air filtering systems work, pre-screening and on site screening of passengers. Our operators can follow a similar protocol if they feel their operational circumstances warrant it.

Most warnings about group travel and meetings refer to large groups, i.e., more than 50 people. WTA operators typically host 8 to 15 people at a time. there are options to address concerns of virus transmission like adopting personal space protocols in confined spaces. The Norovirus event has provided some valuable references and much of that information is very relevant today. 

Messaging to guests should focus on the geographic locations of high-risk areas. In Canada, most people that have been diagnosed are in self-isolation at home or in retirement homes. Be prepared to refer your clients and staff to more detailed, accurate information.

Be aware of what your insurance policy will cover in the event of a required evacuation. Understand what travel insurance providers are communicating to your clients. 

Have a plan or policy set on how you will deal with refund requests from cancellations; this will be important to the future of your business. Being able to communicate clearly to your clients will give them confidence in their decision on whether they want to keep their booking or cancel, and whether they want to return to your business in the future.

Determine if a pre-screening protocol is necessary for your guests. Pre-screening could include: 

  • Requesting client history of travel in the past 4 months; have they travelled or have immediate family/household members travelled to countries that are listed by the PHAC as high-risk.    
  • Requesting information on general health or any illnesses prior to the trip. Consider onsite screening before they depart for the lodge.
  • Monitor guest and staff health during trips; cruise lines are requiring guests to report any emerging illnesses during a trip. You may want to consider this as part of your operating protocol.
  • Schedule and keep records of cleaning practices. Some larger operators are specifying which cleaning products are being used.
  • Formalize medical monitoring protocols and identify the closest medical services to your operation should you require them
  • Formalize and clarify evacuation route planning (closest evacuation points, transportation means, etc.)
  • Record emergency contact information (contact lists, guest contact info, methods of communication, etc.)
  • Monitor the broader situation in BC, be prepared to inform your guests upon their return.
  • Following up with your guests’ post-trip to check on their health; tell them in advance you will be doing this.
  • Adjust your protocols from lessons learned, be flexible.
  • Check your insurance to see what coverage you which types of insurance (medical, “cancel for any reason”, etc.) and amount of coverage included.
  • Monitor the World Health Organization’s site and your own country’s precautions
  • Check your itinerary to see if any border closures have been put in place
  • Bring extra medication in case you are delayed returning home due to quarantines or border closures
  • Follow the recommended health safety recommendations regarding handwashing and wipe surfaces while traveling as an extra precaution
  • If you want or need to cancel your plans, check your traveler’s insurance to see if it covers your reason for cancellation

admin@wilderness-tourism.bc.ca

Phone: 250-655 4103

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