Business events and workforce support initiatives, such as hiring and retaining employees, in the tourism sector will receive more than $9.3 million over the next two years as part of the Tourism Recovery Initiatives Action Plan.
“Since Day 1, our government has been working closely with industry leaders and businesses to understand the challenges they are facing and hear their recommendations about what they need for recovery,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport. “We are once again responding to the call to action put forth by the Tourism Task Force recommendations by investing in business events and bolstering support for the tourism workforce to jumpstart business activity.”
In response to the pandemic, the Province is investing in the restart of the business events and conferences sector, which was one of the hardest hit and may be one of the last to recover. This sector makes significant contributions to the provincial economy.
The new Business Events and Conferences Restart Fund will provide up to $5 million this fiscal year and up to $3 million next year to help restart business travel. Funding will be provided to city destination management organizations that were significantly involved in attracting and hosting business events, conferences and exhibitions before the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible organizations will be invited to submit proposals to access this funding.
This investment will generate economic activity by drawing international visitors, who tend to spend more and stay longer, and often travel to other smaller destinations once their business travel is complete. Restarting business events also provides greater economic benefits for the services that support the sector, such as food services, audio-visual companies, event rental companies, event planners, and transportation companies that will subsequently benefit from the return of large conferences to the province.
“British Columbia’s meetings, conferences, and events sector sustains a significant network of businesses across the province and is critical to the complete rebuild of our provincial economy,” said Ingrid Jarrett, president and CEO, British Columbia Hotel Association. “The Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, under Minister Mark’s remarkable leadership, has been an extraordinary consultative partner, demonstrating a heartfelt commitment to support our industry’s strategic recovery. This meaningful strategic investment will be vital in restoring B.C.’s international reputation as a leading destination for meetings, conferences, and events.”
To help address serious challenges to recruit and retain workers in tourism and hospitality, the Province is investing in human resources support for this sector. More than $1.3 million will fund dedicated human resources specialists in five tourism regions for two years. In partnership with the tourism industry’s human resources association, go2HR, these individuals will provide expert advice to tourism operators in each region, including workforce strategy, recruitment, onboarding, compensation, training, health and safety, and interpreting employment legislation.
In the coming weeks, go2HR will start recruiting on Vancouver Island and in the Thompson Okanagan, Northern BC, Cariboo Chilcotin Coast and Kootenay Rockies tourism regions. The model was developed based on the success of the Tourism Regional HR specialist position that was created by Destination BC in the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region in 2021.
“Investing in tourism and hospitality human resources specialists will help our industry survive the pandemic and thrive,” said Krista Bax, CEO, go2HR. “We are thrilled with the Government of British Columbia’s continued support for the industry’s recovery. Today, our industry has more jobs than workers. Creating a network of expert advice for tourism and hospitality employers will benefit employers and workers, help grow the diverse and inclusive tourism and hospitality workforce of tomorrow, and ensure our industry remains a foundational contributor to B.C.’s economic strategy.”
The Tourism Recovery Initiatives Action Plan is B.C.’s comprehensive plan to support the survival, recovery and growth of the sector. This action plan is part of government’s quick response to the Tourism Task Force’s recommendations that demonstrates continued commitment to the recovery and resilience of tourism in B.C.
Government’s collaborative work to support the tourism sector continues and more support for marquee events, and tourism education and skills training will be announced soon.
Paul Nursey, CEO, Destination Greater Victoria –
“The business events sector provides vital foundational business for all segments of the visitor economy, attracting the most lucrative association, educational and incentive customers, primarily in the off-peak season. Because it is so lucrative, this is a highly competitive sector. This investment will get B.C. back into the competitive marketplace and will deliver very solid returns. Meetings and conferences are also catalytic in driving priority economic sectors, such as ocean marine and clean technology here in Greater Victoria by showcasing the work of our enterprises and post-secondary institutions. We are fired up to bid and win more than our fair share of conferences and events for Greater Victoria and supporting British Columbia’s recovery.”
Nancy Small, chair, BC Destination Marketing Organization, and CEO, Tourism Richmond –
“B.C. is known the world over for our incredible facilities and the diverse hosting experiences our province offers for business events and meetings delegates. This investment from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport will go a long way to support this important part of the visitor economy, which has been essentially shut down through the effects of the pandemic. This incremental funding will assist DMOs to do what we do best – attract these events to our province and help get people back to work in the industry they are so passionate about.”
A backgrounder follows.