Canada's tourism economy suffers unprecedented losses in 2020
Published: Mar 09, 2021 09:34 AM
Few visitors are seen from the Canadian side in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, on March 2, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)

Few visitors are seen from the Canadian side in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, on March 2, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)

Canada's tourism economy suffered unprecedented losses in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is by far the most threatened sector in the country's economy, according to Destination Canada on Monday.

From April to November 2020, revenues from air transportation for passengers fell 91 percent and accommodation revenues plummeted by 71 percent. Small and medium-sized businesses make up 99 percent of enterprises in the tourism sector.

During last summer, the highest weekly average occupancy rate for hotels in Canada only reached 42.9 percent. Passengers on major Canadian airlines for the month of June reached 440,000, which was 6.7 million fewer passengers than the same month a year prior.

Alongside rapid declines in tourism, the COVID-19 pandemic brought business events, entertainment and festivals to a halt; the combined impact resulted in massive losses to hotel revenues, with data showing that major cities have been hardest hit. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver downtown hotels recorded the lowest occupancies of any region in Canada, with revenues falling an estimated 79 percent in the last year, a loss of 2.3 billion Canadian dollars (about 1.8 billion U.S. dollars) across the three cities.

Despite initial signs of recovery, the country's tourism businesses continued facing significant financial stress resulting in business closures, some permanently, throughout the year. This resulted in a decline of 9 percent in active businesses from January to November 2020 -- the greatest decline of all business sectors.

Destination Canada called the current situation facing the tourism sector the worst ever, direr than the impact experienced after 9/11, SARS and the 2008 economic crisis combined.

The tourism economy helps sustain 150,000 jobs in the country. One in every 10 Canadian jobs is tied to tourism.

The jobless rate in the tourism sector remained the highest out of any sector, 6.6 percent above the national rate at the end of 2020. The loss of core staff will hinder businesses' ability to scale up efficiently, thus further impacting recovery.

The tourism economy isn't just a key pillar of the Canadian economy, it's critical to Canadian collective quality of life, said Marsha Walden, president and chief executive officer of Destination Canada.

Destination Canada said it faces an estimated 19 billion Canadian dollars shortfall that could be made up if Canadians shifted two-thirds of their planned spending on international leisure travel to travel at home.
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