May 31, 2020 / 9:04 AM / 2 months ago

Canada to promote holidays at home because of COVID-19 border closures

FILE PHOTO: Cars drive through Canadian customs after movement restrictions came into effect due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the border town of Cornwall, Ontario, Canada March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will invest C$30 million ($21.8 million) to enable its provinces and territories to promote holidays in their “own back yard” because of the closure of the country’s borders due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Destination Canada, the country’s national marketing body which usually focuses on luring international visitors, is due to announce the new funding later on Sunday, according to a statement seen by Reuters before its official release.

Canada, which has had more than 7,000 deaths due to COVID-19, has closed its borders to non-essential travel since March, and it is unclear when they will be opened again. Many provinces have also shut down domestic non-essential travel.

Quebec, which shares borders with the U.S. states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, accounts for more than 60% of the Canadian death toll from the virus, and Ontario, the most populous province, has also been hit hard.

The closures have hammered the tourism industry. Some 42% of businesses in the accommodation and food sectors have reported revenue drops of more than 50%, according to an April survey here of 12,600 businesses.

At the end of 2018, one out of every 11 jobs in Canada was directly tied to travel, according to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, but in April the unemployment rate in the tourism sector skyrocketed to more than 28%.

Tourism is “a significant economic driver and source of local jobs. It’s also among one of the hardest hit sectors as a result of this pandemic,” Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly, who is responsible for tourism, said in the statement.

The aim is to provide a valuable lifeline to the struggling sector during its peak summer season, Ben Cowan-Dewar, chairman of Destination Canada, said in the statement.

It is the first time Destination Canada has provided funding for domestic marketing, according to a spokesman in Joly’s office. The marketing arm in each of the 10 provinces and three territories will decide exactly how they want to use the money, the spokesman said.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Paul Simao

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