Many locally-owned café’s and small bed & breakfasts’ took significant losses for the 2020 summer tourism season, and without support, many will never open again.
“There were a lot of missed opportunities to help the tourism industry this summer,” says Brian Comer, Progressive Conservative MLA for Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg. “For example, both New Brunswick and PEI implemented a local tourism incentive that encouraged people to support local restaurants, hotels, and bed & breakfasts.
Parker Bagnell runs the eight-room Louisbourg Harbour Inn and the six-room Louisbourg Heritage House, neither of which opened this summer. Combined with the Foggy Hermit Café, these businesses employ 28 employees.
“Even with zero revenue, we still face considerable expenses such as property taxes, utilities, licenses, and registrations,” says Bagnell, “not to mention critically important annual maintenance.”
These small tourism operators are exactly the ones who could have most benefited from a proper plan from government. It’s these establishments that are often most connected to a region’s history and culture. But the plan never came. Comer says that allowing these businesses to close permanently would have a long-lasting impact on the tourism industry.
“Small, locally-owned tourism operators often offer the most knowledgeable and authentic experiences. Once lost, these qualities are not easily adaptable to the large chain operators that survive the pandemic,” says Comer.
Back in May, Progressive Conservatives suggested a $200 tax credit per Nova Scotian filer to encourage people to spend money on local restaurants and inns. The Premier rejected the idea, one that has also been adopted in other provinces.
The McNeil Liberals then offered incentives to big tourism operators a $50 million dollar program and left small local businesses to share under $5 million. Comer says that’s unacceptable, but with proper incentives and local marketing, there is still a chance to help businesses.
“It would be a sad future for Cape Breton if by next summer season, the only tourism operators still running are the ones with headquarters outside of our province,” says Comer. “The McNeil Liberal government must step up and take action to prevent this from happening.”