The tourism industry is a major economic engine and job creator for people in British Columbia.
Despite the deep and sudden impacts of COVID-19 on the sector, B.C.'s tourism leaders were quick to put the greater good of our communities above anything else.
To assist in the pandemic response, many hotels throughout the province swiftly transitioned from welcoming guests to creating safe shelter for front-line workers and people without a place to call home. Workers at the Vancouver Conference Centre sprang into action and transformed that facility into a temporary hospital. Destination marketing organizations pivoted to showcase their communities online and encouraged people to visit later.
It's this kind of leadership that has allowed our province to quickly get the pandemic under control and to start laying the groundwork for recovery.
As minister responsible for tourism, I know that every corner of B.C. has incredible places to enjoy and explore - and that it's the people who work in the tourism and hospitality industry who make travel experiences so special.
To help the industry be ready for recovery, we're providing $10 million in grants to 59 community destination marketing organizations to support their efforts to show British Columbians the amazing travel opportunities available right here at home.
In 2018, British Columbians spent an estimated $6.7 billion on international travel, excluding day trips to the United States. This is almost as much as the $6.9 billion international travellers spent in B.C. that same year. Redirecting what we spend abroad toward the tourism sector in B.C. can be a strong first step towards recovery that will create jobs, support local economies and allow the sector to get back to being one of our province's biggest economic drivers.
Destination BC is also working hard to help the tourism sector recover through its three-phased marketing recovery plan: Response, Recovery and Resilience. Its #explorebclocal campaign invites people to explore local experiences and visit businesses close to home.
We're already seeing a groundswell of support from British Columbians to support local businesses - from choosing to shop main street via storefront pickup, to ordering made-in-B.C. products online, to cooking more at home using local ingredients.
As we mark the beginning of Tourism Week, let's all make a commitment and a plan to support B.C.'s tourism industry in 2020 and rediscover the beauty in our own backyards. You will be amazed at what's right around the corner.
Lisa Beare is the BC Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture.