Generally, insurance policies for business do not cover business interruption or supply disruption caused by a pandemic like COVID-19. Property insurance is designed to protect the physical assets of a business against loss or damage from a range of causes, whether specific perils named in the policy or comprehensive. Beyond this, some organizations may have purchased specialized business interruption coverage – generally an add-on to an existing business insurance policy that covers continuing expenses or replaces lost profits in the event of a business temporarily needing to shut down. With these policies, a significant issue is defining the period of indemnity or restoration – policies will pay business income loss through to the point that the business is restored or when the coverage expires – usually 12 months from the beginning of the interruption.

For more information, see the information on the IBC’s website.

For the remainder of 2020, international tourism to Canada is likely to remain fraught with difficulty at least, and in some cases impossible. This will force many tourism operators to pivot to a domestic tourism market. 

The ‘hyper-local’ market is likely to restart first – travellers from within a one to two-hour radius. These might be people driving to a local destination to ski for a day. Thankfully, in several provinces, a substantial proportion of the domestic market also from within province – in British Columbia, 70% of Canadian travellers are from BC itself. There will also be a significant proportion of travellers who might usually be taking their vacations overseas – maybe to Asia or Europe – who now are planning perhaps multiple trips within their own province. There is likely to be more resistance to getting back on planes.

Operators should consider the following when looking to pivot towards a domestic tourism market:

  1. Review your pricing, and provide options at different price points. Research suggests that domestic travellers spend less than those travelling internationally. But their proximity means they may be better placed to make multiple trips if they have a good experience. 
  2. For accommodation providers, highlight off-the-beaten track local attractions. Many travellers are looking to steer clear of highly-touristed marquee local attractions where there may be a risk of crowds. This may be the opportunity to raise the profile of lesser-known attraction within easy reach. 
  3. Raise your profile on local online forums. If your business has been highly reliant on international visitors, you may not have felt the need to have an active presence on municipal or regional WhatsApp, Facebook or other forums mostly used by locals rather than visitors. 
  4. Leverage existing assets. What people, events and activities are already connected to you? They can be strong foundations to build on.
  5. Revisit your approach to packaging. If you have developed packages – which might, for instance, allow customers to buy multiple elements of their vacation together at a discount – accommodation, vehicle hire, entry to local attractions – they may well have been put together with the international market in mind. Review these to ensure that they meet the needs of your local market. 
  6. Adjust your marketing messaging to reflect the mood of travellers. Even if they are only contemplating a local vacation, research suggests that remaining safe from infection is at the top of the list of priorities for those looking to travel. Relaxation and relief from stress are higher up the list of priorities than they would usually be, as will access to open space and the outdoors. These themes will likely need to be prominent in your marketing. 

Sadly, while many Canadian tourism businesses are looking at creative ways of sustaining their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, others will find the challenges of remaining afloat are too much, and will need to close down. Closing a business in Canada is not difficult, but there are various steps you will need to go through. 

  1. Cancel your business registration for your sole proprietorship/partnership, or dissolve your corporation voluntarily. The forms for doing so are different in each province. Here are links to the relevant web pages for Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta.  
  2. Dissolve your corporation. This needs a special resolution to be passed at a meeting (or the written consent) of all voting shareholders.  Again, here are links to the relevant forms for Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta.
  3. Wind up your payroll accounts. All CPP contributions, EI premiums and income tax deductions need to be sent to your tax centre within seven days of your business ending.
  4. Submit your final tax return to the CRA, including a copy of your articles of dissolution (to avoid having to continue to file an annual tax return for the dissolved company).
  5. Close down your sales tax accounts. Your accounts for the GST, HST and PST all need to be closed, with any outstanding amounts paid, via form RC145, which you need to send to the CRA. There are slightly different procedures in Quebec, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. 
  6. Notify your municipality that your business has closed if you have obtained a business licence to operate there.  

As an industry where person-to-person contact is integral and often unavoidable, the tourism sector needs to consider carefully what sort of risk mitigation may be required in order to keep staff and customers as safe as possible from potential COVID-19 infection. 

COVID-19 spreads from person to person, most commonly through respiratory droplets, which can be generated by coughing, sneezing, laughing or talking during close interactions. Those most at risk, therefore, include staff members who have close interactions with clients or other employees during their shift, particularly where these interactions are prolonged (longer than 15 minutes) and who may work in areas with a high density of people or in confined indoor spaces.

This means that it will often be appropriate for frontline service workers to wear masks, when local epidemiology and the rate of community transmission warrants it. Non-medical masks (NMMs) are recommended when it is not possible to consistently maintain a two-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded settings. It is critical that they fit well and are worn correctly.

Clearly, you will need to earmark budget to cover the cost of sourcing this sort of protective equipment. Talk to your local DMO to find out whether funding is available locally to help with the cost of procuring masks and other PPE. For example, RTO7, covering the region north of Toronto, has a fund to reimburse up to $1,000 of the costs of purchasing PPE or adhering to social distancing or of increased cleaning. 

As tourism businesses across Canada reopen after the spring peak of the COVID-19 epidemic, effective communication with customers about how to stay safe while the virus is still among us is vital. Effective signage is a key part of this, and is critical both to allow for the safe opening of tourism across Canada, and to start to build back resident and tourist trust within our tourism communities. 

Signage (supported by digital messaging – for instance, in emails or SMS messages after booking) will help your customers to remember the need to adhere to the practices that will go a long way to keep us all safe from infection in the months to come – maintaining social distancing, regular use of hand sanitizer, frequent washing of hands and the use of face coverings. 

A number of organizations have made posters and signs freely available for download. 

Federation of Small Businesses

Signs.com

PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association)

Used effectively, customer research can be a hugely valuable support to you as you develop and grow your tourism business. It has a number of key advantages:

  • It can help you land on a price point for your services. You can use surveys to test the willingness of likely customers to pay different sums for specific types of offerings. 
  • It can help you understand your target customers and their priorities. What sort of experiences are your customers looking for in their vacations? You can use it to segment and profile different groups of potential customers to be able to tailor your marketing more effectively.
  • It can help you identify the most appropriate channels to use in your marketing. If you know what social media outlets use, which travel blogs they follow, which YouTube channels they subscribe to and which offline media such as travel magazines they consume, you can focus your marketing spend on those channels.
  • It can help you identify potential barriers to visiting your destination. Are your potential customers being put off by worries about poor weather, high costs, lack of transport, public health concerns or a lack of nearby attractions? If you know what obstacles are stopping people booking, you can address them directly.
  • It can help you test specific marketing messages. What language, what themes and which images will resonate most with your target market? Research can be used to test different options and identify which is most likely to convert those who are considering whether to book. 
  • It can help you gather feedback on your current offering. Used systematically, customer feedback surveys can generate invaluable insights into what elements of your services people particularly appreciated, what they think needs to be improved, and what new offerings they would like to see you introduce.

Research can now be conducted more cost-effectively than in the past, with a range of digital tools making it accessible to even small operators. But you will still need to ground your research in clearly-defined objectives, and understand what you will do with the results. The graphic below may help you think about the different stages of the process:

Before commissioning your own research, be sure to investigate the many Canada-specific public and free resources that exist. These include:

Destination Canada – Destination Canada’s resources for tourism operators include monthly or quarterly reports on the current state of tourism in Canada, tourism spend across 20 regions and 6 categories and insights and marketing recommendations by the major target markets for Canada.

Destination Ontario – including several links to consumer sentiment research studies that are structured to better understand when and where to re-engage visitors thinking about travelling, and with what messaging.

Destination British Columbia – including research reports focused on BC’s six tourism regions, and its key target markets. It also includes useful resources including research methodologies, tools and how-to guides, including the Research Guide for Tourism Operators

Travel Alberta – the Alberta resource includes at-a-glance indicators produced by respected research organizations and government agencies aimed at helping the tourism industry in Alberta understand how they are performing, where opportunities lie and how to adjust based on the most recent data regarding travellers, expenditures, habits and trends. 

The COVID-19 pandemic means that, more than ever before, tourism businesses need to have the health and safety of their customers – and their employees – at the forefront of their minds as they re-start operations. A national protocol has yet to be agreed upon, but best practice is already well established. Tourism attractions need to be thinking about operational and staff preparedness, delivering a safe experience and rebuilding trust and confidence.

Operational and staff preparedness

Ensure you have:

  • Obtained any licences required locally
  • Developed checklists for infection prevention, cleaning and disinfection. Guidance is available here
  • Implemented protocols and guidelines for staff health including stay-at-home policy for staff displaying COVID-19 symptoms
  • Adjusted workplace layout to promote physical distancing and limit staff in common areas
  • Implemented protocols to minimize physical contact, especially for waiting in line, using virtual lines where possible. Floor signs to encourage socially distanced lineups can be downloaded here
  • Evaluated laundry services and meal delivery options available to staff
  • Integrated technologies to allow for contactless payment if possible
  • Make non-medical masks (NMMs) available to staff as long as required, particularly when it is not possible to consistently maintain a two-metre physical distance from others or in crowded settings.
  • Learnt from best practice of prominent attractions throughout Canada. For instance, the National Gallery of Canada has established entry and exit of visitors through different doors, added signage and floor markers to encourage physical distancing, installed plexiglass shields in their boutique and Box Office and made mask-wearing mandatory for all visitors. 
  • Evaluated innovations for cleanliness and disinfection such as foggers, electrostatic spraying technology, UVC light and EPA based air filtration, with validation from expert bodies – particularly for large attractions
  • Established with suppliers and partners including restaurants, cafes, kiosks, hotels and transport partners that they are also following likeminded health and hygiene protocols
  • Provided staff with all necessary tools and information for infection control, physical contact, appropriate attire and enhanced hygiene measures
  • Reviewed employee sick leave policies and updated as needed
  • Implemented and retrained staff on new protocols for infection control, physical distancing and enhanced hygiene protocols (e.g. hand washing, use of masks and gloves)
  • Instituted continuous monitoring of staff physical and mental wellbeing by leadership 

Delivering a safe experience

Ensure you have:

  • Worked with partners and suppliers to understand what additional measures have been introduced
  • Implemented processes to ensure enhanced sanitation, disinfection and deep cleaning as well as increased cleaning/disinfection frequency
  • Selected disinfecting products approved by health authorities
  • Revisited guidance to cleaning team, with a specific focus on high-frequency touch points such as handrails, elevators, common areas and washrooms
  • Provided participants with recommended elevator etiquette to ensure physical distancing throughout the venue if relevant
  • Approved disinfecting products made available at sanitation stations in high-traffic areas
  • Laundered towels using a detergent and high-heat washer and dryer settings
  • Reduced participant capacity limits in venues as appropriate and required by local legislation to allow for physical distancing. The City of Toronto website provides detailed guidance for those organizing live events on how to do so while operating at a reduced capacity and limiting the potential for viral transmission.
  • Implemented guest health checks if appropriate
  • Limited physical contact and standing in line where possible
  • Made masks available to guests (if required locally), and encouraged them to wear them
  • Encouraged guests to purchase tickets online if possible
  • Allowed extra time for guests to enter the venue, and explored staggered timing of venue access where possible
  • Created isolation units outside the venue where possible for people showing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Established that partner restaurants and cafes follow likeminded health, sanitation, disinfection and hygiene and food safety protocols to protect guests

Rebuilding trust and confidence

Ensure you have:

  • Provided clear, consistent and up-to-date communication to customers on new health and hygiene protocols both digitally and physically at the venue, including clear signage on social distancing and enhanced cleaning protocols
  • Integrated where possible (and highlight the implementation of) technologies enabling the use of timeslots to minimize crowds
  • Shared guest guidelines both ahead of trip (for instance, together with a booking confirmation email) and upon commencement of trip (for instance, via a reminder SMS) including on wearing of face masks, practising hand hygiene and avoiding physical contact, and had guests acknowledge them
  • Informed guests about support available if questions or concerns arise. How will you respond if guests are concerned about others not respecting social distancing? How will you handle the presence of a guest who appears to be sick with COVID-19 symptoms? How rigorously will you enforce the wearing of masks? You need to develop a robust response to all the most important customer questions that may arise, and brief your staff accordingly. Bear in mind that you may well have procedures already developed for customer complaints or difficult customers that may be able to be adapted and applied to this situation.
  • Set up a medical service point if possible, depending on size of attraction
  • Created water/soft drinks protocols at events, including recommendations for guests to use their own refillable water bottles or providing individual water bottles as an alternative

For more information, visit: https://wttc.org/COVID-19/Safe-Travels-Global-Protocols-Stamp

The COVID-19 pandemic means that, more than ever before, tourism businesses need to have the health and safety of their customers – and their employees – at the forefront of their minds as they re-start operations. A national protocol has yet to be agreed upon, but best practice is already well established. Hospitality businesses need to be thinking about operational and staff preparedness, delivering a safe experience and rebuilding trust and confidence.

Operational and staff preparedness

Ensure you have:

  • Obtained any licences required locally
  • Developed checklists for infection prevention, cleaning and disinfection
  • Ensured required staffing levels available to restart operations
  • Implemented protocols and guidelines for staff health including stay-at-home policy for staff displaying COVID-19 symptoms. This briefing document lists some of the factors you need to consider as an employer in this context, such as the self-isolation period and stipulations around employee travel.
  • Adjusted workplace layout to promote physical distancing and limit staff in common areas
  • Implemented protocols to minimize physical contact
  • Implemented enhanced protocols for food safety relating to supply chain control, food handling and preparation, hygiene, digitization and deep cleaning
  • Aligned procedures on issues such as social distancing, mask usage and cleaning with local transport partners
  • Integrated technologies to allow for contactless payment if possible
  • Evaluated innovations for cleanliness and disinfection such as electrostatic spraying technology, UVC light and EPA based air filtration, with validation from expert bodies
  • Implemented and retrained staff on new protocols for infection control, physical distancing and enhanced hygiene protocols (e.g. hand washing, use of masks and gloves)
  • Instituted continuous monitoring of physical and mental staff wellbeing by leadership 

Delivering a safe experience

Ensure you have:

  • Implemented processes to ensure enhanced sanitation, disinfection and deep cleaning as well as increased cleaning/disinfection frequency
  • Selected disinfecting products approved by health authorities
  • Revisited guidance to cleaning team for all areas of the hotel, with a specific focus on high-frequency touch points such as room key cards, light switches and door handles
  • Ensured physical distancing for guests through signage and guidelines
  • Implemented guest health/temperature checks if required by legislation. This document outlines some important issues to consider if these sorts of checks are required, including the need for social distancing, logistics and privacy concerns.
  • Recommended use of face masks for as long as required
  • Enhanced food safety by avoiding guest handling of food at buffets, regularly cleaning machines, disinfecting tables immediately a guest has left and minimizing what is placed on guest tables
  • Implemented physical distancing for event seating distribution and gathering size based on government guidance. This short video gives some useful guidance. 
  • Created water/soft drinks protocols at events, including recommendations for guests to use their own refillable water bottles or providing individual water bottles as an alternative

Rebuilding trust and confidence

Ensure you have:

  • Provided clear, consistent and up-to-date communication to customers on new health and hygiene protocols both digitally and physically, and trained staff to answer questions. Here are some examples of how household-name companies are communicating with customers about their new COVID-19 protocols. 
  • Implemented clear signage throughout the hotel to inform guests of enhanced cleaning protocols, physical distancing and recommendations. Here are some samples that are free to download. 
  • Shared guest guidelines on basis of health authority advice that may include wearing of face masks, guidance on hand hygiene, physical distancing

For more information, visit: https://wttc.org/COVID-19/Safe-Travels-Global-Protocols-Stamp

The COVID-19 pandemic means that, more than ever before, tourism businesses need to have the health and safety of their customers – and their employees – at the forefront of their minds as they re-start operations. A national protocol for Canada has yet to be agreed upon, but best practice is already well established. Tour operators need to be thinking about operational and staff preparedness, delivering a safe experience and rebuilding trust and confidence.

Operational and staff preparedness

Ensure you have:

  • Obtained any licences required locally
  • Developed checklists for infection prevention, cleaning and disinfection
  • Implemented protocols and guidelines for staff health
  • Adjusted workspace layout to promote physical distancing and limit staff in common areas
  • Implemented protocols to minimize physical contact
  • Made personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks available to staff
  • Integrated technologies to allow for contactless payment if possible
  • Worked with suppliers and partners to ensure they follow health and hygiene protocols
  • Established COVID-19 contingency plan in collaboration with suppliers and partners in the event that new cases emerge – see for example section 10 in this document, which gives examples of appropriate contingency procedures for tour operators
  • Introduced appropriate cleanliness best practices approved by expert bodies
  • Explored different options for operations such as advanced tickets, timed entries or smaller groups
  • Provided staff with all necessary training and information regarding infection control and physical contact

Delivering a safe experience

Ensure you have:

  • Worked with your suppliers to understand what additional measures have been introduced
  • Selected appropriate disinfecting products approved by health authorities
  • Issued new guidance to cleaning teams focusing on increased cleaning frequency and high-frequency touch points
  • Made approved disinfecting products, e.g. hand sanitizer, available to guests at sanitation stations 
  • Introduced allocated seating plans with no rotation and appropriate seat spacing – some venues are adopting the ‘checkerboard’ system
  • Provided trash cans with liner bags and regular disposal
  • Implemented guest health checks and testing where required by local legislation
  • Limited physical contact and standing in line where possible – there is some useful advice here on how to maintain physical distancing when managing customer lines
  • Made masks available to guests where required by local authorities
  • Developed online/contactless check-in and check-out tools and procedures where possible
  • Explored the potential for staggered timing of access to venues. You may want to consider specific appointment slots for customers or allocating entrance times by last name. This may require you to change your customer messaging regarding the time your customers will need to safely enter and leave the venue.
  • Established that partner restaurants follow likeminded health, sanitation, disinfection, hygiene and food safety protocols

Rebuilding trust & confidence

Ensure you have:

  • Provided clear, consistent and up-to-date communication to customers on new health and hygiene protocols both digitally (emails, texts) and physically (signage)
  • Shared guest guidelines both ahead of trip (for instance, together with a booking confirmation email) and upon commencement of trip (for instance, via a reminder SMS) including on wearing of face masks, practising hand hygiene and avoiding physical contact, and had guests acknowledge them
  • Informed guests about support available if questions or concerns arise – here is an example of the sort of measures that one tour operator has put in place and is briefing its guests about, including self-drive options, flexible dining and measures to ensure social distancing on tour buses
  • Trained staff to answer questions and resolve challenges, including the detection of new cases and guest non-compliance
  • Explored collaboration with insurance companies to offer traveller insurance covering COVID-19 and assistance with emergency repatriation or medical care if necessary. For example, TUI in the UK is collaborating with insurer Axa to offer COVID-19 coverage with packages booked with them during 2020, including medical repatriation, vacation guarantee and medical assistance. 
  • Promoted contact tracing apps if required by local legislation, and put in procedures to collect client information as required by local legislation to facilitate contact tracing

For more information, visit: https://wttc.org/COVID-19/Safe-Travels-Global-Protocols-Stamp

Pandemic contingency plan policy

In order to be able to act quickly in response to future pandemics, your company will need to have a clear policy of how it expects to respond that is well understood by your staff. You may wish to do the following, in order to be as ready as possible for a possible future pandemic.

Identify who is responsible for ensuring staff understand the pandemic recovery plan. This may be you or a manager, HR leaders or GMs, depending on the size of your business. Staff should be tasked with familiarizing themselves with the procedure and given a contact person for questions.

Identify a Crisis Management Team. This needs to comprise employee, middle and senior management. They will be expected to exercise leadership in the absence of senior or operational managers. 

Develop a pandemic communications strategy. This will ensure that employees receive up to date and accurate information on the status of the pandemic, provide information on personal health and hygiene and will identify channels, both on- and offline, by which staff will be kept informed of relevant information and alerted to how to deal with possible incidences of the virus within the company. 

Review leave and absence policies, including policies on sickness absence, time off for dependants and bereavement leave.

Identify likely rules to be put in place to reduce infection risk. Make clear that these will be specific to the pandemic in question, but will likely include physical distancing and minimizing of face-to-face interactions as far as possible, increased levels of hygiene management, and a requirement for employees to adhere to government guidance on symptom management and self-isolation.