“Our businesses were the first hit, the hardest hit and will be the last to recover”: Insights from TIAC & Destination Canada
Clockwise from top left: Moderator John C. Dunn, President Floor13, TIAC Board of Directors; Beth Potter, President and CEO of TIAC; Marsha Walden, President and CEO of Destination Canada

“Our businesses were the first hit, the hardest hit and will be the last to recover”: Insights from TIAC & Destination Canada

TORONTO — In case you’re doubting the importance of domestic tourism, consider this: if Canadians spent just two-thirds of their typical outbound travel budget in Canada rather than internationally in 2021, it can speed up the travel industry’s recovery by an entire year.

This is particularly notable since Destination Canada estimates that it will take another four years for the industry to reach 2019 levels, if significant changes and government interventions are not made.

“2020 losses to Canada’s tourism sector are the worst on record; the combined impacts of the global pandemic have actually wiped out 35 years of growth,” said Marsha Walden, President and CEO of Destination Canada during Friday’s joint industry webinar with TIAC (Tourism Industry Association of Canada). “So capturing a good portion of that typical outbound travel can have a very positive impact on the fortunes of our industry.”

This year, Destination Canada will be making its largest-ever investment in domestic tourism marketing to motivate inter-provincial travel by Canadians, working with provinces, territories and cities to ensure that an integrated program will be in place to help drive revenue “the minute restrictions are lifted,” added Walden. 

“We’ll kick things off by asking our highly engaged social community across the country to share their bucket-list destinations, the places they want to go first when they’re able. We want to turn this question into a national conversation, not just into a media campaign, and show Canadians that all their travel aspirations can and should be fulfilled right here in Canada,” she said.





Beth Potter, TIAC’s new President and CEO who co-hosted Friday’s webinar, said that it’s imperative Canada regains its momentum and competitiveness on a global scale, which is why TIAC has asked the federal government to provide Destination Canada with at least $225 million in top-up funding over three years.

“Targeted supports are needed for tourism businesses to ensure that they’re around when border restrictions are lifted,” said Potter. “With the lack of travel in 2020 there’s an opportunity to inject some of this spending into Canada. Converting just 10%-12% of these Canadian expenditures could net an additional $4-$5 billion over and above inter- and intra-provincial spend.”

On behalf of Canada’s tour operators, TIAC is also lobbying for the following:

  • A tax incentive to Canadians for the 2021/2022 tax years to travel locally or within Canada
  • The re-introduction of the federally-funded Marquee Tourism Events Program (MTEP) to support key festivals and events across Canada
  • The development of a Business Events and Urban Recovery funding program to help support urban DMOs replaced business, meetings and events losses
  • To reinstate the visitor GST program for international visitors
  • Targeted funding for labour market research and skill and capacity building programs that prioritize jobs in the tourism economy
  • To extend work visas for a full year and waive fees until 2022, and ensure immigration programs meet future tourism labour demands

“It is important that the industry be able to offer services for these domestic visitors so we are asking for support that allows the sector to survive and regain competitiveness through and following this pandemic,” said Potter. “With extended support we can thrive and survive – without it Canada’s tourism, culture and hospitality industries will be devastated as will our economy, impacting every corner of this great country.

“As we are all too aware, our businesses were the first hit by the pandemic, the hardest hit by closures and will be the last to recover.”



TIAC’s multi-layered recovery plan focuses largely on programs that are currently in play, all of which have served as lifelines to the tourism sector. Noting how businesses have “lost revenue and cashflow while fixed expenses continue,” TIAC is calling on the government to extend CEWS to 85% for hardest-hit businesses until the end of summer 2021, and CERS until the end of 2021. According to the Coalition of the Hardest Hit Businesses, Potter revealed that 60% of those hardest hit in Canada will not survive if both programs are not extended beyond the June 5 deadline to the end of the year. 

TIAC is also throwing its support behind Canada’s aviation sector, calling on the government to provide immediate liquidity to carriers and airports, as well as sufficient funding to government service providers such as NavCan and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA). It’s also asking to establish incentives for airlines to maintain service to remote communities and eliminate airport ground lease rent. 

“Support for the aviation sector is critical for our recovery; every route lost or plane grounded will delay recover,” said Potter. “Without support for the air sector and access to liquidity to stay on top of fixed costs, the sector’s recovery will be prolonged and Canada may lose its global competitiveness.”



Potter said two things must happen in order for Canada’s tourism industry to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“One, we need to get Canadians moving around the country and that’s going to come as they gain more confidence in feeling safe to travel, and residents feel more comfortable welcoming people into their communities,” she said. 

“On the other side of it, we also need time to plan so that businesses can open and this is the conversation we’re having with government. Let’s draw a line in the sand and pick a date, whether it’s in the summer after all Canadians get at least one vaccination shot, or in the fall after Canadians get both doses.

“We’ve got to ramp up and rehire half a million people, we need to communicate with our clients and guests to tell them what they can expect because we’ve had to change the way we do business a little bit, whether it’s timed-ticket entry or advanced reservations. We’re not an industry that can turn on in a dime,” she added.



Imperative to the industry’s recovery is the reopening of inter-provincial and international borders, which Potter believes the government can provide guidance on. Noting how “uncertainty is not a plan that ensures a successful recovery,” she added that countries around the world have already amended their entry guidelines using evidence-based data that supports a reduced quarantine and increased testing as a more effective way to protect populations.

Canada’s 3-day hotel quarantine for international travellers, announced on Jan. 29, currently has no end-date though the federal government has maintained that any travel measures will remain in place for as long as necessary. In addition to the hotel quarantine, travellers five years of age or older must get tested for COVID-19 before travelling to Canada, take another COVID-19 molecular test upon arrival (if flying), before leaving the airport, finish out their 14-day quarantine at their place of quarantine, then take a day 10 test. 

“We believe that Canada needs to rethink quarantine rules and invest in rapid testing and contact tracing,” said Potter. “Canada needs to function under a united travel approach and have one travel policy for the country as opposed to 13 individual policies.” 

On the issue of proof of vaccination, TIAC is recommending that Canada adopts the measure, believing that it should become a common part of travellers’ travel documents moving forward. Potter noted that a system is already in place, used by airlines and border officials around the world to validate either proof of vaccinations or visas, and that the best way to implement this new requirement would be to piggyback on the existing system.

“We’ve been facilitating conversations with the federal government and we’ve been at the table with countries around the world because we want to make sure that what Canada’s solution looks like fits in with everybody else,” said Potter. But we need to understand that not everybody will be vaccinated. So we’re going to need a way for those who aren’t vaccinated to travel as well. A rigourous testing regime and contact tracing are the two solutions that seem to make the most amount of sense, one that doesn’t overly complicate the process and are easily accessible and attainable by travellers.”



Potter invites all TIAC members to support the not-for-profit organization’s lobbying efforts and send a letter to their MP via tourismcounts.ca. If not yet a member, she encourages them to sign up today to receive a host of benefits that includes members-only webinars. The next webinar is scheduled for April 20, one day after the federal budget will be tabled, during which members will receive an overview of how the budget will impact businesses moving forward.

“As each wave of this crisis hits us, we want to make sure that we are understanding and communicating with all of the businesses in the industry to know how it’s impacting them,” said Potter. “Please join your peers across the country in fuelling the work we are doing today, tomorrow and in the future for your survival and recovery. Our success begins with your support.”

To watch the webinar in its entirety click here

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