A man walks through a near deserted Convention Centre in Montreal on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The cancellation of business conferences and conventions across the country is costing cities hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues as the COVID-19 pandemic craters the broader tourism industry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

A man walks through a near deserted Convention Centre in Montreal on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The cancellation of business conferences and conventions across the country is costing cities hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues as the COVID-19 pandemic craters the broader tourism industry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Plummeting business tourism costing cities hundreds of millions in lost revenues

Vancouver has 84 business bookings cancelled through December amid border shutdowns and bans on gatherings

The cancellation of business conferences and conventions across the country is costing cities hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue as the COVID-19 pandemic devastates the tourism industry.

Tourism Toronto says the city will be down 120,000 business visitors from April through June as major events such as the Collision tech conference are cancelled or postponed, depriving the metropolis of an estimated $250 million in spending.

“Right now we have hotels in the single-digit occupancy range, borders closed and stay-home orders so visitor spending is effectively shut down,” said Andrew Weir, the marketing organization’s vice-president of destination development.

“This is a complete halt to the tourism economy,” he said, with “all major meetings” now nixed.

With virtually no leisure travel, the suspension of all in-person business gatherings is taking a multimillion-dollar bite out of an already suffering sector.

Last week barely 5,000 passengers arrived at Canadian airports from the U.S., down 99 per cent from a year earlier, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.

READ MORE: Canada-U.S. border restrictions extended another 30 days

READ MORE: As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Hotel occupancy rates sit below 10 per cent on average, prompting more than 4,100 closures and 250,000 layoffs across the country — 83 per cent of the industry workforce — the Hotel Association of Canada said.

“They’re the people that open doors and clean rooms and do all the things that are so essential to making that stay memorable and enjoyable, so it’s very difficult to see so many people affected like this,” Weir said.

Tourism Montreal says at least 70,000 hotel bookings and $55 million in sales will evaporate in the second quarter after more than 120 business events — including the National Hockey League draft — were pushed back or called off.

Yves Lalumiere, the marketing organization’s CEO, said events with just a couple of thousand attendees can boost the local economy, particularly in the low season, making their absence “hurt” all the more.

Many events have been postponed until 2023 or 2024, such as the 10,000-attendee International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, initially scheduled April. Others such as the International Economic Forum of the Americas’ Montreal conference, originally slated for June, are now on the calendar for December.

READ MORE: Should a vaccine for COVID-19 be made mandatory in Canada, once it’s created?

Vancouver is facing a similar crisis, with 84 business bookings cancelled through December amid ongoing border shutdowns and bans on group gatherings, according to its tourism association.

The ripple effect reaches beyond the hospitality sector to hit small businesses.

“Obviously, hotels and restaurants are affected to their very core,” Weir said. “But the reality is when meetings and conventions don’t happen, that affects audio-visual companies, it affects transportation companies, it affects staging companies and the entertainers, the musical acts and professional M.C.s that are hired to host these events.”

About one-quarter of the $10 billion in economic activity generated annually by tourism occurs in the second quarter, with “nearly all of it” now lost, he said.

Weir worries that while pent-up demand among locals for restaurants, attractions and nightlife will help fuel a recovery once restrictions start to lift, a wariness of travel has set in among would-be tourists that could be hard to shake in 2020.

“We’ve all been in our house for weeks upon weeks, and what will soon be several months,” he said, “but the pace of getting comfortable with moving and flying again just isn’t known right now.”

—With files from Julien Arsenault

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronaviruseconomy

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID cases in the Bella Coola Valley have dropped to just four active cases (file photo)
Active COVID cases drop to four; schools re-open for face-to-face instruction

A total of 63 cases were recorded with 59 now out of isolation

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Joyce Cooper (left) said she had to set an example for Tsilhqot’in communities by sharing her COVID-19 positive results. (Photo submitted)
Tsideldel off-reserve member documents experience of COVID-19

We should all be supporting one another and not judging each other, says Joyce Cooper

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Nuxalk Public Health Nurse Sophie Mack is all smiles as she vaccinates her dad, hereditary chief James Mack Sr., with his first dose of the Moderna vaccine (photo submitted)
Cases drop as vaccine continues to roll out in Bella Coola

Seniors at Mountain View Lodge, Nuxalk elders, hospital staff and long-term care residents have all started to receive their vaccines so far

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
5 big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19

‘What should be done to reduce the harms the next time a virus arises?’ Disease control experts answer

Most Read