Niagara tourism industry losses likely top $1 billion
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.
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.