'Relieved and thankful': Alberta hotels and restaurants welcome new targeted subsidies

·2 min read
Customers enjoy a meal at Annabelle’s Kitchen in Marda Loop last June. (The Canadian Press - image credit)
Customers enjoy a meal at Annabelle’s Kitchen in Marda Loop last June. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

Businesses in Alberta's tourism and hospitality sector say they're hopeful targeted COVID-19 relief programs announced Thursday by the federal government will have a positive impact on businesses that have been struggling through the pandemic.

The Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program will provide industry operators with wage and rent subsidies until May. It will provide support to hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and tour operators at a subsidy rate of up to 75 per cent.

"This is extremely positive, and I know that that many of the details of the program are based on direct input that was provided by the Hotel Association of Canada," said Dave Kaiser, president and CEO fo the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association.

Leslie Echino, owner of Annabelle's Kitchen, which has two locations in Calgary, said these supports are absolutely welcomed by restaurant owners.

"I'm beyond relieved and thankful — specifically for the downtown location," she said.

"You know, ever since the new stay-at-home work suggestion that was delivered by the government at the start of September, our sales dropped 80 per cent immediately."

The other program — the Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program — will provide wage and rent subsidies of up to 50 per cent to businesses that can show "deep and enduring losses," said Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Applicants for the tourism and hospitality program must show average monthly revenue losses of 40 per cent over the course of 12 months of the pandemic and a loss of 40 per cent in the current month.

"The 2021 levels, up to the end of August, are still at just about 50 per cent below where we were in 2019," said Kaiser. "Based on that revenue drop, that would certainly make eligible most of the hotels in Alberta."

Those applying for the "hardest-hit" program must demonstrate an average monthly revenue loss of 50 per cent and a loss of 50 per cent in the current month.

Businesses that face temporary local lockdowns will also be eligible for "up to the maximum amount of the wage and rent subsidy programs" regardless of losses over the course of the pandemic, according to the Department of Finance.

But Echino said she's hopeful that health measures combined with these subsidies will help the province's hardest-hit industries make a comeback.

"None of us want this. With my one location, as soon as I was able to get off subsidies, it was a huge relief. And I think it is important that we all get off of these when restrictions are being lifted. That is the goal for all of us," she said.

"We didn't go into business to take handouts from the government. We went into business to provide jobs and security and benefits for our employees. So I just really hope that can continue for me."

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