WINNIPEG -- With restrictions on travel and the shutdown of many local businesses, Manitoba’s tourism industry has been hit especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But a virtual town hall held on Tuesday by Destination Canada, looked at ways the industry is dealing with the pandemic and how it can bounce back.


During his presentation, Colin Ferguson, president and CEO of Travel Manitoba, said if the virus is contained by the summer, Manitoba will see a 25 per cent decrease in tourism spending for 2020 and more than 6,800 jobs will be lost. But if the pandemic is not contained until the fall, the province will see a 60 per cent decrease in tourism spending this year and more than 11,600 jobs lost.

“The one thing that’s clear is the impact will be substantial,” he said.

Ferguson also unveiled Manitoba’s tourism recovery plan, which includes three phases: respond, rebuild and restart.

He noted this plan involves an in-province campaign, encouraging people to travel close to home.


One sentiment echoed throughout the town hall, is the fact that as restrictions are lifted, the tourism industry will likely revolve around hyper-local travel.

“It’s possible, and we all know this, that there could be a return to more travel restrictions,” said Gloria Loree, senior vice president for marketing strategy and chief marketing officer at Destination Canada.

She noted the tourism industry in Manitoba’s remote communities, which aren’t easy to get to by vehicle, will have a tougher time with recovery.

Loree said right now Destination Canada is trying to understand how different communities feel about welcoming tourists. The research found that Manitobans are more comfortable welcoming tourists from nearby communities or from within the province, compared to allowing those from out of the province or other countries into their communities.

“Everything we knew about travel before we have to put to question and ask if that’s still true,” she said.


Charlotte Bell, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), said the organization is gathering information, working with the government, filling in the gaps, and planning for post-pandemic success.

She pointed out many of the government programs that have been put in place that can help the tourism industry, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance, and the Canada Emergency Business Account.

“I appreciate that not everyone can access these programs,” she said, noting she hopes people will be able to access some of the initiatives.

Bell said TIAC created an industry-led policy committee that has come up with government recommendations to help with recovery. She noted this is a robust document that will be released in the next few days.

“We are going to be focusing a lot of our attention on recovery and working with the government.


Keith Henry, president and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), said the sector is experiencing significant vulnerability.

He noted among Indigenous tourism businesses, the hardest-hit sectors have been gaming and accommodations, and 3,800 permanent and 1,600 non-permanent jobs have been lost.

Henry said in response to the pandemic, ITAC has revised its action plan, conducted research, and implemented new marketing activities.

“We’re trying to create at least more awareness during these challenging times,” he said, noting the association has also created a stimulus grant program and recovery plan.

Henry noted that historically, viruses have decimated Indigenous communities and therefore they might be more sensitive about reopening and allowing tourists into the community.