Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys) speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. The Yukon government has announced $2.8 million in tourism relief funding aimed at businesses in the accommodation sector that have already maxed out existing funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys) speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. The Yukon government has announced $2.8 million in tourism relief funding aimed at businesses in the accommodation sector that have already maxed out existing funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Tourism relief funding offers $2.8 million to hotels and overnight accommodations

$15 million in relief funding is planned for the tourism sector over the next three years

The Yukon government has announced $2.8 million in tourism relief funding aimed at businesses in the accommodation sector that have already maxed out existing funds.

“Our tourism sector absolutely relies on availability of hotels. So we know that we need to work hard with our partners to protect the infrastructure that we have because we have some large, large hotels in Yukon that we really need to have around if we’re going to have a tourism sector at all,” said Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys).

McLean said some hotels have already maxed out on relief from the Yukon Business Relief Program. Businesses won’t be eligible for the $2.8 million fund until they can demonstrate they have maxed out the other relief funds.

“We knew that this sector would need to be supported through this really difficult downtime, and we need them to be here when tourism comes back. When folks are able to travel safely again our hotels are absolutely key to the success of tourism,” she said.

This supplement has been added to the Yukon Business Relief Program and will be administered by the Department of Tourism and Culture.

McLean said the $2.8 million for the hotel industry is part of a larger $15 million in new relief funding planned for the next three years dedicated to helping the struggling tourism industry bounce back from COVID-19.

The fund can provide eligible businesses up to $400 per room, per month, up to the point of breakeven for rooms that are available for occupancy between October 1 and December 31.

The program may be extended into the new year until the end of March, if needed, according to the department.

The criteria includes businesses that rent out at least three individual rooms, suites or cabins as short-term rentals. The receiving business must also be Yukon-based, be fully open while receiving support and demonstrate it is operating at a monthly loss.

The department said it was difficult to estimate the number of businesses eligible for the funding, but said over 1,600 fixed room accommodations exist in the Yukon. The department estimates that with winter shutdowns, 1,200 rooms are likely to meet the criteria.

McLean announced the new funds in the legislature on Oct. 19.

Tourism critic Wade Istchenko criticized the relief measures for coming too late. He said relief measures should have been planned — in consultation with the Yukon Party — six months previously at the beginning of the pandemic.

“I can’t help but worry that it has maybe come too late for many Yukoners who are out of work and for many businesses who have already shut their doors,” he said.

“There is not a cookie-cutter approach to support that will work for all,” cautioned MLA Liz Hanson, who said the relief funds are welcome but the NDP will be listening to seasonal operators who may not be covered.

McLean said to date, 165 tourism businesses have accessed around $4 million through the tourism marketing fund and business relief fund.

The new measures were developed with the input of the Yukon Tourism Advisory Board.

Tourism is Yukon’s largest private-sector employer, accounting for 13.5 per cent of all jobs and accounted for five per cent of Yukon’s GDP in 2018, according to the government.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

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