Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
Thank you for providing us this opportunity to appear before you and for the important work your committee is undertaking. It's much appreciated.
We're here today to provide you with a picture of how devastating COVID-19 has been for businesses located within Canada's mountain national parks. We also have several recommendations to propose to the committee that would provide immediate relief to our businesses, as tourism and revenues plummet.
My name is Yannis Karlos. I'm the co-founder of Banff Hospitality Collective. We own and operate 11 restaurants in Banff. Joining me is Stuart Back, vice-president of operations for Pursuit's Banff Jasper collection. Together we co-chair the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment.
AMPPE is a member-based organization that represents over 1,000 businesses operating throughout Canada's seven mountain national parks. Collectively, we employ tens of thousands of Canadians. AMPPE advocates for accessibility and positive visitor experiences in these parks. We believe in healthy parks. Conservation is fostered when visitors experience nature in a deep and meaningful way.
As recently as last year, our region welcomed over five million people and contributed $3 billion per year to Alberta's economy. Visitors to Banff alone generate about $250 million in provincial tax and $470 million in federal tax revenues annually.
As economic diversification has become a priority in Alberta, tourism's contributions will only increase in stature. As a result, we are seeking to work with governments to do everything possible to support our industry as we navigate this difficult period.
The formerly busy streets of mountain parks towns are nearly deserted. In mid-March, over half of Banff's residents, or an estimated 5,000 people, lost their jobs, and there has been a limited recovery since. On the Victoria Day weekend, typically one of the busiest of the year, we saw an unheard of 92% drop in visitors. The local economies of Banff and Lake Louise are almost entirely reliant on tourism, with that of Jasper close behind. Nearby towns such as Canmore, Hinton, Pincher Creek, Invermere, Revelstoke and Golden also rely heavily on the mountain parks and tourism for their economic well-being.
Sadly, there's limited short-term relief in sight for our towns. A recent study by the Vanier Institute found that 72% of Canadian families are unlikely to travel in the next year. Borders remain closed. Interprovincial travel is being actively discouraged, and flight capacities are a fraction of what they once were. Sixty per cent of visitors to Banff National Park originate from outside of our regional market. Businesses in mountain parks remain squeezed between federal and provincial guidelines, and perhaps most important our business viability is built on summer visitation carrying us through the slower winter season. This was true even before the COVID-19 crisis. I heard someone say recently that losing the summer will be akin to having three winters in a row. The simple fact is that we will need sustained support to survive.
We remain solution-oriented and are deeply committed to our businesses in the mountain parks region. Our recommendations will provide immediate relief to the tourism-reliant communities where we operate.
First, we ask that Parks Canada waive entrance fees to the national parks. This was done in 2017 for Canada 150 and resulted in an increase in visitation.
Second, we recommend Parks Canada extend lease and licence renewals and overholding terms. Local businesses are scrambling to reinvent themselves as guidelines, regulations and visitor circumstances change daily. Extending lease renewals and simplifying terms will enable all parties to focus on recovery efforts.
Third, we recommend that government reinvest in guest experience and infrastructure to support communities within the parks and the welcoming back of visitors. Visitors coming to the mountain parks are seeking a connection with nature through a variety of experiences. Investing in infrastructure and addressing deferred maintenance, as well as our quantified infrastructure deficit, will give Canadians a platform to strengthen their connection to the parks while also providing important stimulus for our local economies.
Fourth, we recommend making our parks global leaders in green and low-carbon visitation by progressing plans for expanded mass transit and passenger rail connections. These projects will help reduce key congestion, lower emissions and protect the environment, while creating jobs and economic opportunity.
Finally, we ask that CEWS, CECRA and the Parks Canada rent relief program be extended for tourism and hospitality-dependent businesses as long as travel restrictions and social distancing requirements are in place. Doing this will create longer-term stability and certainty for our communities and facilitate keeping our people employed.
We would like to thank you once again for your time and attention to the very urgent issues facing our part of the country and our members. AMPPE values this opportunity not only to help you understand the devastating and long-term impacts the COVID-19 crisis is having but also to propose to you some immediate solutions that we very much hope the Government of Canada will seriously consider and act upon.
Thank you. We welcome any questions you may have.