• Province still working on response as time ticks away for tourism industry

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    Effects of COVID-19 have many in the industry experiencing all-time lows
    Pat Sullivan says time is running out for businesses that make the majority of their money during the summer tourist season, and they need help soon.
    "I am talking to hotels who will pay more in property taxes than they'll get in revenue this year," Sullivan, president of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday.
    Sullivan said many people operating bars, restaurants, hotels and other businesses hoped they would see an increase in business with the creation of the Atlantic bubble. While some patrons are returning, it's not nearly enough, he said.
    While the industry is supportive of opening to other parts of Canada, which would mean removing the self-isolation requirement for anyone coming from outside the Atlantic bubble, Sullivan said the reality is most people from outside the region plan their travel well in advance.
    "Opening up is part of the puzzle, it's not a solution by any means."
    Incentives for local travel
    In June, the chamber submitted a suggestion to the government similar to what New Brunswick recently announced, which would mean providing Nova Scotians an incentive to travel within this province.
    "The only way we're going to get people to spend money quickly is if we incentivize Nova Scotians to get out of their homes, to visit restaurants, to stay in accommodations around the province," said Sullivan. "I believe some people are doing that [but] we need more people to do it. We need more staycations."
    For now, the government has rejected the idea of a tax incentive or rebate for people who travel within the province.
    Business Minister Geoff MacLellan told reporters Thursday that while the approach might be right for other provinces, Nova Scotia doesn't think it's the right fit.
    Visit from COVID-19 likely to cost N.S. tourism more than $1B
    MacLellan said the government knows the industry is hurting and is working on a plan. But he said it is too early for details.
    "We're looking at what we can do next. I know that's a general statement, but that's the truth. If I had something definitive to share, I certainly would."
    The minister said the government hasn't completely ruled out some type of incentive, and he said help would come for the industry before the fall. But MacLellan said the government is also confronted with the loss of an entire cruise ship season and many conventions, adding to the challenge.
    "There's nothing we can do to put that fundamental capacity back on the streets and in the restaurants and hotels."
    Business Minister Geoff MacLellan says his department is still working on a support plan for the tourism industry. (Robert Short/CBC)
    A further challenge is that some Nova Scotians still aren't comfortable going out for dinner or a drink, said MacLellan. As public health orders have lifted in the last few months, the corresponding bounce in business the government hoped for did not materialize.
    For Sullivan, it's all the more reason to provide an incentive for Nova Scotians to get out and travel their province. He said anecdotal evidence in New Brunswick is showing a $200 incentive for residents of that province has helped some hotels.
    "The Nova Scotia government incentivizes companies, they incentivize doctors to visit Nova Scotia to try and get them to come here, they incentivize businesses to reside here and bring employment here."
    Michael Gorman · CBC News ·