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Cariboo tourism looking for funding like other provinces

The mountain ranges, forests, and lakes in British Columbia usually leave those experiencing them in awe, but they haven’t been getting as many eyes as they are used to.

B.C.’s tourism industry has been struggling since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.

Julie Gilmore, manager at the South Cariboo Visitor Centre, said they’ve felt the financial impact of COVID-19, but not as much as other areas.

“We get a lot of our financial state from funding and grants,” she said. “Our marketing program is probably going to take a hit for sure. For advertising, that kind of thing is going to be hit hard.”

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Gaylan Byer, the Williams Lake Visitor Centre supervisor, said that they have seen lower numbers compared to previous years but are happy to be open and running seven days a week.

She said that in terms of finances, they hope the locals can help them out.

“We will probably be pushing it pretty tight, but we hope we will be able to keep the visitor centre open.”

Faith Johnston, the coordinator at the Quesnel Visitor Centre, said like other centres, they are in a tight spot this year when it comes to their budget.

Meanwhile, Gilmore said it’s too early to tell what their finances will look like and the end of the year.

“We just reopened again June 4. We have seen it starting out slow, but since Phase 3 has come in. I’m starting seeing a little bit of an increase,” she said. “We are getting more and more people from British Columbia with the staycations coming into the area. We are getting a lot of phone calls regarding the area, what there is to see and do, what they need to do when they come into the area and are we open.”

Gilmore noted that they had only had to reduce hours for their staff and haven’t had to lay anyone off, unlike both the Williams Lake and Quesnel Visitor Centres, who had to temporarily layoff staff before they both reopened.

So far, B.C. has not received any financial compensation from the federal government, despite Quebec and Atlantic Canada both receiving funding from the federal government.

Byer, Gilmore, and Johnston all noted that any funding would help out not just them, but also tourism within the whole Cariboo area.

The lack of funding saw B.C.’s Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson ask “Where is B.C.’s funding?”

“Ottawa is handing our tourism funding to the rest of Canada, where is B.C.’s share?” he said via Twitter. “John Horgan needs to stand up for our tourism industry. There are 130,000 people at risk of losing their jobs in tourism. They need to know the government has their back.”

Premier John Horgan has addressed the hardship the tourism industry is facing.

“As we build an economic recovery that puts people first, we’re championship the needs of tourism workers, businesses, and communities across B.C.,” he said via a Twitter page.

The federal government put forward $46 million towards both Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

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