Over the last few weeks, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) has been diligently working on creating a new program that directly addresses the impacts of COVID-19 on tourism businesses and helps to navigate the Provincial and Federal initiatives that have been put in place to try and mitigate the effects of the pandemic. The organization, while still continuing with its core programs, has pivoted from its role and is focused on providing one-on-one direct support to all tourism businesses within the Thompson Okanagan corridor.
After surveying almost 800 businesses, they found three key needs which were common to a large sector of stakeholders:
- Advocate on behalf of business to Government
- Clarify Appropriate Consumer Communications
- Support Businesses with pathfinding services and expert advice.
The survey results demonstrated that personalized support is key in helping stakeholders navigate the current landscape.
Together with the British Columbia Regional Tourism Secretariat, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, go2HR, Indigenous Tourism BC, Tourism Industry Association of BC, community DMOs, and Destination BC, TOTA has launched the Tourism Resiliency Program, which was piloted by the Vancouver Island Tourism Association and funded by the Island Coastal Economic Trust.
The focus of this program is to connect tourism businesses with the necessary support and information that they need. One of the main issues small businesses are facing is understanding and navigating the different funding programs and resources that have become available in the last few weeks. TOTA will provide leadership, expertise, and resources to connect businesses with the solutions that are appropriate to them. The program has 3 main objectives:
- Provide Meaningful Support
- Streamline Communications
TOTA has not only trained their staff to be able to navigate the provincial and federal funding programs and resources, but they have also partnered with specialists from different fields who can offer expert advice (finance, HR, legal services, mental health, etc). The program will pair participating businesses with a program advisor who will meet with them one-on-one to understand their specific needs, legal experts will be consulted as required, and a Development and Delivery of Support Plan will be created for the business. The program is meant to provide long-term help and the program advisor will be on hand for anywhere between 3-6 months (as long as necessary). TOTA will also host a number of webinars to address and educate on specific COVID-19 related programs.
Any tourism business located within the Thompson Okanagan can participate in the program, which is free of charge and is now open for registration. Appointments can be booked online at tourismresiliency.ca/tota/, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling directly at 1-877-431-8489.