Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My remarks are only five minutes, so we'll buy some extra time for questions.
Thank you for the invitation to speak with you today.
My name is Susie Grynol, and I am the president and CEO of the Hotel Association of Canada.
Today I am here on behalf of the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses, representing more than 100 organizations in the tourism, travel, arts and culture, events and festivals, accommodation and hospitality sectors. A copy of coalition members was sent through to the committee in advance.
Because of necessary public health policies, we have seen thousands of festivals, concerts, conventions, indigenous tourism experiences, fairs, exhibitions, business and sporting events cancelled. Unfortunately, no major events are scheduled for this summer or fall.
When we are past the third wave, most industries impacted by COVID will revive quickly when the light-switch is turned on, ramping up operations the day after restrictions are lifted. For Canada's tourism, travel and events sector, our recovery will be more complicated, more like a dimmer switch that will build over the next year.
Opening up the international border is complicated. Planning large concerts and conventions in a new COVID world will take time, and today we have no information on what metrics would lead to a domestic travel restart, to the reopening of the U.S. border or to the welcoming back of international vacationers. We don't know how Canada plans to allow vaccinated Canadians to resume travel and what a phased reopening plan would entail.
The only thing we do know is that travel is not being recommended by public health officials this summer. Most Canadians will spend their summer in their backyards or at cottages and campsites. Our downtown cores will sit empty because no major events are planned, business travel will be non-existent and Canadians will likely spend their pent-up travel dollars down south this fall and winter, rather than in Canada. Simply put, our recovery is not imminent.
Where does this leave us? The federal budget did make some helpful investments into tourism. We saw marketing dollars and specific funds to bring back our events businesses and other business support programs, which may benefit the industry when the pandemic is over, but these investments cannot bring back the summer of 2021 and will not change the reality that the fall will be our toughest quarter of the pandemic.
How could it be worse than 2020 was? It's because the critical lifelines of our industry—CEWS and CERS—are being aggressively wound down for all sectors equally, starting in June.
How big a problem is this? According to our survey of coalition members from March, 60% of businesses represented will go out of business without an extension of CEWS and CERS to the end of 2021. This means that we could lose the critical infrastructure that supports our event businesses in Canada, the unique local attractions that enhance our visitor experience and the hotels that anchor our travel sector. It means that our post-pandemic nation will look a lot less vibrant and less Canadian. It puts the livelihoods of more than two million people at risk, mostly women, young people and immigrants.
The real tragedy is that this is a problem of timing and not a shift in human behaviour. Once it's allowed, travel will come back with a vengeance. We've seen it in other countries. Canadians will want to attend sporting events and concerts. They will want to go back to the theatre and attend in-person conventions. They can't wait to get married in a big, crowded room full of the people they love. Travel and face-to-face events will come back, but we need a plan for how the government intends to keep our sector intact until we can get to the other side of the pandemic.
Today we're asking the government for two things. First, the federal government must produce a clear reopening plan based on metrics and milestones that we can rely on to start planning large events and the return of travel. Other countries have tabled reopening plans, and we believe Canada should follow suit.
Second, we need a sector-specific support program in place for the fall to assist with wages and fixed costs so that we can survive to the spring and summer of 2021, when our true recovery will start. It is only the federal government that can disarm the ticking time bomb that faces our industry. If a sector-specific approach is not designed, it is not a question of whether that bomb explodes, only a question of when.