The B.C. government has distributed $36.3 million of its promised $50 million aid for anchor tourist attractions around the province to help them keep running as tourism starts to recover from COVID-19 gathering and travel restrictions.
Tourism Minister Melanie Mark said Friday that 83 applications for assistance have been accepted, including Hells Gate Airtram in the Fraser Canyon, Butchart Gardens in Greater Victoria and water parks at Cultus Lake and Vernon. The program offers up to $1 million for operations with 150 or more employees, and up to $500,000 for smaller attractions and tour bus companies such as Wilson’s Transportation, which expanded after Greyhound shut down operations across Canada.
Grants have been awarded to 23 urban anchor attractions including the PNE, 34 rural anchor attractions and 26 tour bus operators. Recipients include the Kettle Valley Railway Society in Summerland, the Nelson Electric Tramway Society, the B.C. Forest Museum Society in Duncan, the Penticton Art Gallery, Fernie and District Historical Society, Ocean Outfitters in Tofino, Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Big White Ski Resort.
Individual grant amounts were not released for business privacy reasons. The program offered up to $1 million for urban attractions that receive 75,000 or more visitors per year, up to $500,000 rural attractions with up to 15,000 visitors per year and up to $500,000 for tour bus companies that serve 30,000 passengers or more in a normal year.
Organizations can use the money for payroll costs, rent, utilities and costs related to restarting or ramping up operations as well as business expenses to help them recover from the impacts of the pandemic, the tourism ministry said in a statement July 23.
“The sector called on government to provide grants, not loans, and we worked with tourism sector leaders to make sure these vital businesses and non-profits can continue to employ residents and draw visitors to attractions throughout B.C.,” Mark said.