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Lots of worry from Newfoundland tourism industry during COVID-19 crisis

Adventure Central chairperson Geoff Orendorff. Contributed
Adventure Central chairperson Geoff Orendorff. Contributed

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt to the start of tourism season in the province and it has operators in central Newfoundland worried about their futures.

The lockdown is expected to be in place until the beginning of July, which would cut at least two months out of the tourism season.

A November end date has also been floated around, which would have dire consequences on some of the smaller tourism operators around the province.

“The Band-Aid solutions are good for right now, but what I am hearing is a concern for the longer term,” said Adventure Central chairperson Geoff Orendorff.

Adventure Central acts as the liaison for tourism operators across the central part of the province.

Their concerns lie in not only the loss of this season, but what that loss could mean when the lockdown subsides.

Questions like how willing people will be to travel, and what those places will look like, are at the top of their minds.

Last year an abundance of icebergs extended the tourism season. This year circumstances are quite different. - File
Last year an abundance of icebergs extended the tourism season. This year circumstances are quite different. - File

The provincial government has already deferred loan payments under the industry and innovation business corporation and the business investment fund for three months, and will extend that if it has to.

Workplace NL has done something similar.

“The question is, well, we’ve got all of these deferrals, we’ve got higher overhead now or we might be paying more interest and have to make do with less income over the next three or four years,” said Orendorff. “They’re looking at higher bills and lower income.”

Bernard Davis, the province’s minister of tourism, culture, industry and innovation, has fielded plenty of calls from concerned tourism operators from across the province.

His department is meeting with Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador multiple times a week.

“They’ve been a direct link with operators right across the island, and brings their concerns that they have forward to me and my colleagues,” said Davis. “I bring it forward to our federal government because with a global pandemic the Canadian government is going to play a major role in helping alleviate all reaches of the country.”

Through his conversations with his federal counterparts, Davis said, he expects there to be an announcement of a tourism-aimed stimulus package in the next week or so.

It is expected it would help some of the smaller tourism operations that don’t necessarily fall under the current Canada Emergency Relief Benefit program.

"We don’t have a lot of resources, as much as the federal government does, to jump in on these programs, so what we’re going to be doing is where the gaps exist we’re going to try and help our operators and make sure the season is as successful as it can be,” said Davis.

Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network.

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