A Message From Colin Ferguson – President & CEO, Travel MB

Dear Industry Partners,

As the days get shorter and the temperatures get cooler, our thoughts are no doubt still on what the future holds for our industry. We were very pleased to see in this week’s Throne Speech that the Manitoba government is committed to our industry’s recovery.  

The government has committed to “updating the provincial tourism strategy to build back this important sector, and protect jobs and incomes for thousands of Manitobans”. In addition, the speech referenced the “need and role for a provincial venture capital investment fund to give Manitoba businesses better access to innovative financing to bridge established private investment capital sources”. Both of these commitments are promising for our industry.

These announcements build on the province’s commitment to economic recovery. The Manitoba government’s #RestartMB program is its roadmap to recovery from the effects of the COVID19 pandemic. First and foremost in the plan is the commitment to protect Manitobans while investing in jobs and economic stimulus. Through #RestartMB, the following supports are currently available to businesses:

The Manitoba Gap Protection Program (MGPP) is a $120 million program providing a one-time $6,000 non-interest bearing forgivable loan to eligible Manitoba small and medium-sized businesses experiencing hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related public-health orders. The loan will be forgiven on December 31, 2020 if recipients declare at that time that they have not received any non-repayable COVID-19 federal supports greater than $6,000 in 2020. The program application deadline is currently October 31, 2020, and is subject to change as determined by the Manitoba government.

The Back to Work Manitoba initiative is a hiring program designed to support Manitoba’s economic recovery by encouraging Manitoba employers to bring back their employees or take on new hires. Employers are eligible to receive a reimbursement of 50 per cent of total wages actually paid between July 16 and December 31, 2020, to a maximum of $5,000 per worker. Employers can apply to receive funding for up to 20 positions and receive up to $100,000.

B2B Manitoba is online marketplace to connect non-medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers with businesses who may need PPE to open and operate safely.  Recent enhancements allow businesses to contract health and safety services, such as product installation, laundry, cleaning and disinfection. Learn more at https://b2bmanitoba.ca.

The Manitoba Economic Support Centre is call centre (1-888-805-7554) to help businesses, not-for-profits and charities facing economic challenges due to COVID-19 connect with provincial and federal support programs.

At the federal level, on October 2, $600 million in additional funding was announced for the Regional Relief Recovery Fund (RRRF) – $456 million – and Community Futures Fund (CFF) – $144 million. Tourism businesses were identified as one of the targeted sectors for this funding.

The federal government also extended the application deadline for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) from August 31 to October 31, 2020. The program is available to those with qualifying payroll or non-deferrable expenses that have so far been unable to apply due to not operating from a business banking account.

The Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) is also extended, to June 2021. Through BCAP, the government is supporting the flow of additional credit that businesses need to maintain operations and keep employees on the payroll. Export Development Canada (EDC) and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) will continue to work with lenders to support access to capital for Canadian businesses of all sizes in all sectors and regions.

In addition to these announcements, the government’s Throne Speech on September 23 included several significant references to help for the tourism industry, including plans to extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) through the summer of 2021, investments in liquidity measures including enhancements to the CEBA and BCAP programs, and support for regional routes for airlines. While announcements in the Throne Speech are not automatically put into action by government, it does serve as a roadmap for future policy.

And while many businesses struggle through the economic hardship of the pandemic, it is not a time to lose sight of the issues of anti-racism, inclusivity and diversity that affect our industry as they do others. The federal government recently announced funding for a partnership between Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce and Tourism HR Canada to deliver free LGBT+ inclusivity workshops for Canada’s tourism industry. The workshop will help tourism based businesses learn about LGBT+ inclusion and how to effectively understand, value and serve LGBT+ customers and employees.  The sessions are occurring across Canada over the coming months.  More details can be found here.

As we anxiously await the daily briefings on case counts and test positivity rates, I hope that the lessons we have learned over the past six months stay with us through what may now be a “second wave”. As our industry continues to recover, the importance of maintaining the practices that have allowed us to come this far cannot be stressed enough. Physical distancing (and reducing capacity in order to accommodate physical distancing), insistence on employees staying at home if they are sick or exhibiting COVID-related symptoms, and adherence to strict mask wearing, cleaning and sanitization practices are more important than ever. I’m confident that our industry will set a positive example in this regard for other sectors to follow.

As we look ahead to the next phase of our Tourism Recovery Plan, from Respond to Rebuild to Restart, support like that from the provincial and federal governments, along with our industry’s adherence to all public health measures, will be critical to ensuring that Manitoba is – one day – able to welcome the world.  

Sincerely,

Colin Ferguson
Travel Manitoba President & CEO