Ni­a­gara tourism in­dus­try losses likely top $1 bil­lion

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Local - GORD HOWARD THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD Gord.Howard@ni­a­garadailie­s.com

Ni­a­gara’s tourism in­dus­try has likely al­ready lost more than a bil­lion dol­lars in rev­enue from the im­pact of COVID-19.

Un­less the mar­ket im­proves, that could hit nearly $2.3 bil­lion af­ter six months and $4 bil­lion in a year.

That’s what the re­gion’s eco­nomic rapid re­sponse team learned when it dived deeper into data from a sur­vey it con­ducted in late March, reach­ing out to more than 10,000 Ni­a­gara em­ploy­ers from ev­ery sec­tor.

Now, the team is launch­ing a fol­lowup, hop­ing to hear more from busi­nesses not only about the im­pact from the coro­n­avirus, but what it will cost them to re­fit them­selves to thrive post-pan­demic.

“It’s a real bal­anc­ing act” as Queen’s Park slowly re­opens the province’s econ­omy, said Blake Landry, man­ager of eco­nomic re­search and anal­y­sis for Ni­a­gara Re­gion.

“If we open too soon (the num­ber of COVID-19 cases) can spike, and that will de­lay open­ings for a lot longer. But if we wait too long, we’re go­ing to lose some of those busi­nesses … it’s a rock and a hard place sit­u­a­tion.”

The ini­tial sur­vey heard back from 2,600 of the busi­nesses, rep­re­sent­ing 66,000 em­ploy­ees.

The re­sults were sober­ing: 43 per­ma­nently closed, about 1,100 tem­po­rar­ily closed, and two-thirds had laid off from three-quar­ters to all of their staff.

While only 75 of the re­spond­ing busi­nesses re­ported no eco­nomic im­pact, 950 said they lost from 75 per cent to all of their rev­enue due to COVID-19 re­stric­tions.

The eco­nomic rapid re­sponse team is com­posed of the six mu­nic­i­pal de­vel­op­ment of­fices across Ni­a­gara. Re­sults of the sur­vey, and from the fol­lowup that closes May 25, will be shared with dif­fer­ent lev­els of gov­ern­ment that have to form a re­cov­ery plan for On­tario’s econ­omy.

“We won’t be as im­pact­ful in do­ing ad­vo­cacy and look­ing for re­sources for our busi­nesses if we don’t have that ev­i­dence to sup­port our ask,” said Landry.

While he wants the re­sults to paint a “true eco­nomic im­pact” for the re­gion’s en­tire econ­omy, its largest em­ployer — tourism — has taken the big­gest hit.

Among its ques­tions, the fol­lowup sur­vey asks busi­nesses to es­ti­mate their losses now and into the near fu­ture, whether they have laid off staff since April 1, and if they ex­pect more job losses. They’re also asked to de­scribe the state of their op­er­a­tion, from im­mi­nent risk of clo­sure down to do­ing well.

It also asks if they have piv­oted to adapt to the new econ­omy, and to es­ti­mate costs to func­tion when the econ­omy re­opens. That in­cludes ren­o­va­tion ex­penses to con­form to so­cial dis­tanc­ing, and the cost to buy per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment for staff and to in­stall Plex­i­glas bar­ri­ers.

Much has changed since the orig­i­nal sur­vey went out — new gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance is avail­able, some busi­nesses have been al­lowed to re­open, oth­ers func­tion on de­liv­ery and curb­side pickup only and some re­main closed.

“Things are mov­ing so quickly that or­ga­ni­za­tions like Sta­tis­tics Canada can’t ac­tu­ally get us the data we need to de­ter­mine things like eco­nomic im­pact,” said Landry.

The sur­vey can be found at https://bit.ly/3dIQ6wY.

BOB TYMCZYSZYN TORSTAR FILE PHOTO

Tourism is the hard­est-hit sec­tor in Ni­a­gara, from the ef­fects of COVID-19. A study shows it has likely al­ready lost a bil­lion dol­lars in rev­enue since mid-March.

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