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Tourists pose with the Canadian provincial flags, in Victoria, on Jan. 27, 2020.Melissa Renwick/Melissa Renwick

British Columbia’s tourism and hospitality sector believes it should receive more than one-third of a $1.5-billion COVID-19 recovery package pledged to the province by the federal government.

A statement from the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. says a coalition of more than 19,000 tourism and hospitality businesses believes the sector should be allocated $680-million to help ease the impacts of the novel coronavirus.

The association says the funds could save as many as 100,000 jobs this year alone and provide immediate assistance to businesses hardest hit by restrictions on travel and limits on gatherings.

It says data from 2018 shows tourism and hospitality brought $20.4-billion in direct visitor spending to B.C., and generated billions more in goods produced and services provided.

Association chair Vivek Sharma says existing stimulus packages aimed at overall economic recovery are helpful, but aren’t enough to revive a sector in which 300,000 jobs were affected at the pandemic’s height.

Mr. Sharma says the association is proposing a three-part recovery starting with $475-million for no-interest loans or other supports to businesses with the potential to return to profitability over the next 18 months.

A further $190-million would help tourism businesses adapt their operations to health and safety requirements, while $15-million would support the accommodation, attractions, transportation, food services, and retail industries as they rebuilt shattered supply chains.

The association, which presented its proposal to the B.C. government last week, also recommends an industry-government committee to finalize funding and monitor program outcomes.

“For decades, tourism has been a strong and consistent economic engine for the province and significant source of employment in every B.C. community,” Mr. Sharma says in the statement.

“What we are asking for is a return on the investments the tourism and hospitality sector has made to the provincial and national economy over those decades.”

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