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COVID-19 Tourism Industry Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated: May 15, 2020

It can be challenging to make decisions for your business with so much uncertainty around the situation with COVID-19. Tourism Nova Scotia is making every effort to ensure tourism operators have up-to-date information and access to resources that can help you with your business during this time.

For general information and updates about COVID-19 and tourism, visit https://tourismns.ca/coronavirus

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions for tourism businesses.

Impact of COVID-19 for Businesses

What does the state of emergency mean for my business?
  • Any workplace or business that is not deemed essential (or not already required to be closed) can remain open as long as a two-metre (6 foot) distance can be maintained between people. Workspaces must also be cleaned and disinfected at a minimum of twice daily, or as required, and employees must follow proper hygiene. You know your business best and how to operate in a way that follows the directives of Public Health.
    • Personal services, like hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons, and body art establishments must close.
    • All fitness establishments, like gyms, must close.
    • Garden centres, nurseries and similar businesses can open.
  • The Province of Nova Scotia has launched an Employer Assessment Tool to help businesses and organizations understand if they should remain open and how to keep employees and customers safe. See https://covid19-employer-assessment.novascotia.ca/en    

  • Employers cannot require a doctor’s note if an employee must be off work.

  • Public social gatherings of more than 5 persons have been prohibited under the Health Protection Act. This restriction does not restrict the number of persons in a workplace, provided the directives issued to date under the Health Protection Act measures are being followed including those relating to social distancing and personal health protection.
    • There are several groups who are essential and exempt from gathering limits. They include but are not limited to grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies. Other groups include construction sites, health-care services, community services (e.g. child protection) and criminal justice services, and law enforcement.
       
  • Persons entering Nova Scotia at any border crossing are required to self isolate for 14 days unless they are exempt. Exemptions from self isolation for cross-border travel into Nova Scotia include:
    • healthy workers in trades and transportation sectors who move goods and people,
    • healthy people commuting to work, and
    • people travelling into the province for essential health services.
Does my taproom/bar/restaurant have to close?
  • Government has directed all restaurants to close their dining rooms.
    • This applies to hotel restaurants and extends to hotel guests.
    • Room-service can continue during this time, as can take-out for hotel guests and customers outside the hotel.
  • Only take-out and delivery are permitted at this time. Restaurants are temporarily allowed to include alcohol with food delivery/take-out orders.
  • Drinking establishments, winery and distillery tasting rooms and craft taprooms are also closed.
  • Private liquor stores are permitted to be open and must follow the lead of the NSLC for hours of operation, and craft breweries, wineries and distilleries can still sell storefront.
     
Can I operate my tour/sightseeing/whale watching boat?

As of April 6, 2020, all commercial passenger vessels with a capacity of more than 12 passengers are prohibited from operating for non-essential purposes, such as tourism or recreational activities (e.g. day tours, whale watching, or sightseeing) in Canadian waters. These measures remain in place until June 30 at the earliest. See the backgrounder from Transport Canada.

Allowance to operate under restrictions (i.e. operating at 50% capacity) is permitted only for essential passenger vessels and ferry vessels, as defined in the Interim Order. Details of recommended screening procedures for operators of essential passenger vessels and ferry vessels, including suggested health check questions, can be found online. See the new Transport Canada guidelines.

Does my accommodation have to close?
  • Outside of any previously identified required closures (such as dine-in restaurants, gyms, salons) businesses can remain open provided they follow public health protocols. These protocols include:
    • Maintaining a two-metre (6 foot) distance between people
    • Workspaces must be cleaned and disinfected at a minimum of twice daily, or as required
    • Employees must follow proper hygiene standards, including handwashing for at least 20 seconds
  • Because gyms and personal services must close, then pools, fitness centres, spas, etc. located at accommodation businesses must also close.
  • Use the province’s COVID-19 employer assessment tool to see what your business needs to do.
Should operators change their cancellation policies in light of coronavirus?
  • Given the circumstances, we encourage businesses to consider special cancellation and refund policies as well as communicating any relevant updates directly to customers. That way businesses can encourage customers to easily cancel or reschedule their visit if they have health concerns without incurring financial penalty. 
  • It’s also a good business practice to proactively communicate any measures taken to protect the health and safety of customers including enhanced cleaning measures. 
  • Businesses may also want to encourage customers to review their travel insurance policies prior to beginning their trip.
     
I’m getting calls about cancellations – when will the Canadian government reopen the border to tourists?
  • The Canadian government has temporarily closed the border for non-essential travel. Please check www.travel.gc.ca for the most up to date information.
  • Due to the uncertainty and quick moving nature of the COVID-19 crisis, please note that international travel bans published by the government may change as the situation requires.
  • As tourism industry professionals, our advice is to treat end dates as fluid.
  • Tourism Nova Scotia will relay any change in travel restrictions as soon as the information becomes available.
     
What is my responsibility as an accommodation operator to ensure my guests follow directives to self-isolate for 14 days if they have been outside of the province?
  • Your guests may not be aware of this provincial directive, or how it impacts them. The check-in process is a good time to remind guests of the restrictions and protocols in place to protect themselves and others. It is recommended that staff do not question guests or make assumptions regarding their health.
    • Consider creating a resource page that could be distributed to each room outlining the provincial guidelines as well as steps the hotel has taken to protect the health and safety of guests.
  • If you are aware of someone not following the Public Health directive, have a conversation with them first – they may need help. However, if you still have concerns following a discussion with your guest, police are authorized to enforce orders under the Health Protection Act. If a call to police is needed, please call a non-emergency number for the police that serve your community. Do not call 911.
  • The Hotel Association of Canada has created hotel-specific resources including a FAQ for taking care of employees and guests, and guidelines for modified operations which may be of use to you: http://www.hotelassociation.ca/coronavirus/
What will be the impact of COVID-19 on tourism demand and tourism revenues?
  • Our research team is working to develop scenarios that will estimate the possible impact of COVID-19 on tourism demand, and the resulting possible impact on provincial tourism revenues in 2020 and 2021.
  • We know that tourism demand will be constrained for the foreseeable future, and it will take some time before potential visitors feel ready to travel again.
  • To that end, Tourism Nova Scotia’s research team is working with national and provincial partners to develop indicators that will help us understand future travel intentions. These indicators will inform Tourism Nova Scotia’s marketing decisions. They may also help you with your business planning. 
  • See Tourism Nova Scotia’s Tourism Recovery Research and Marketing Approach – as of April 28, 2020. 

Impact on Campgrounds, Parks, Festivals, Events, Outdoor Recreation, and Tourist Attractions

When will campgrounds be able to open?
  • Provincial campgrounds remain closed. Provincial parks reservations for the 2020 camping season are on hold; an announcement will made when they are available.
  • Private campgrounds can open for seasonal campers in fixed RV campsites, i.e. RVs that are used as cottages. Short-term camping is still closed. Use of RVs is restricted to one household unit at a time, travel must be directly to the RV and back, and travelling back and forth frequently from RV and primary residence is discouraged. People must keep two metres apart and not gather in groups of more than five.

What about national parks?
  • All Parks Canada facilities are temporarily closed, all visitor services and all motor vehicle access by visitors are suspended until further notice. Starting June 1, some Parks Canada places will begin to offer limited access and services while maintaining physical distancing measures.
    • Please visit their website for more information
What about provincial and municipal parks?
  • Provincial and municipal parks and trails are open, but playground equipment will continue to be off limits. Gathering limits and social distancing guidelines must be followed.
  • Public beaches are permitted to reopen.
  • Provincial tourist attractions remain closed.
What about other outdoor recreational activities?
  • People are allowed to use and visit community gardens.
  • Sportfishing is now open. You can fish from shore or a boat. However, you need to maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres or 6 feet from others, when you’re on shore and at the boat launch. If you’re fishing from a boat, you can only be with people who live in the same house as you do. No derbies or festival events are allowed at this time. People from outside Nova Scotia cannot sport fish here or tow boats to sport fish here at this time.
  • Archery, equestrianism, golf, surfing, paddling, sailing/boating and tennis are permitted to resume at outdoor facilities provided social distancing, environmental cleaning and participant hygiene can be maintained; organized coaching or training, competitions, tournaments, regattas or similar events are not permitted.
Should I cancel my event/festival?
  • At this time, the Government of Nova Scotia is limiting all public gatherings to no more than 5 people and encouraging social distancing. This could include weddings, conferences, festivals and events, and concerts.
  • Additionally, effective March 19, 2020, restaurants in Nova Scotia can only operate take-out and delivery services and drinking establishments/bars are not permitted to open until further notice.
  • See the Government of Canada’s Risk-informed Decision Making for Mass Gatherings guide to help you determine if you should cancel or post-pone your event.

Support for Tourism Businesses

What is the federal government doing to help tourism businesses?
What is ACOA doing to help tourism businesses?
  • The Government of Canada has announced that all Regional Development Agencies, including ACOA, will apply a deferral of three months on all payments due to the government, as of April 1, 2020.
  • If you are a tourism operator or a small- or medium-sized business or organization and have received ACOA funding and COVID-19 is affecting your operations, you are encouraged to contact your local ACOA office. Your local ACOA office can review your situation and provide guidance.
    • You may be eligible to receive additional funding and/or flexible arrangements.
    • Further support will be determined on a case-by-case basis as the situation evolves.
  • If you are a tourism operator or a small- or medium-sized business or organization impacted by the sudden shifts in the economy and need pressing assistance, ACOA could assist you with:
    • Access to federal funding to help you stay in business.
    • Advice and pathfinding services to other federal programs and services available.
  • More information can be found here: https://www.canada.ca/en/atlantic-canada-opportunities/campaigns/covid19.html
  • ACOA is also administering the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund.
     
What is the provincial government doing to help tourism businesses?
  • Access Credit and Maintain Cashflow: The provincial government announced a $161 million package for small and medium-sized businesses to help them access credit and maintain cash flow. This first wave of supports includes:
    • Payment deferrals until June 30 on all government loans, including those under the Farm Loan Board, Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board, Jobs Fund, Nova Scotia Business Fund, Municipal Finance Corp. and Housing Nova Scotia.
    • Fees, including business renewal fees and workers compensation premiums, will be deferred. 
    • Changes to the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program, administered through 15 provincial Credit Unions, include deferring principal and interest payments until June 30.
    • Other changes to the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program including enhancing the program to make it easier for businesses to access credit up to $500,000.  For new loans, the first $100,000 will be fully guaranteed by the province.
  • Covid-19 Small Business Credit and Support Program: Starting April 29, the Province of Nova Scotia will offer a temporary stream for access to credit, cash grants, and support delivered through participating credit unions.
    • To be eligible, small businesses must have a payroll less than $20,000 in the previous fiscal year and have experienced a decline in revenue from sales of at least 15 per cent in March or at least 30 per cent in April, May or June.
    • Maximum loan amount is $25,000.  Upon approval, businesses will receive a grant up to $1,500 as well as a COVID-19 Business Continuity Voucher of up to $1,500 to help hire consultants for advice and support.
    • This new stream will be available until June 30. See https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus
  • Access to Training and Business Advice: The Province of Nova Scotia is partnering with Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) to offer education, training and guidance for small businesses. Through a central online hub, the program will connect businesses across the province with support programs available through post-secondary institutions, government, and other regional organizations. To receive follow up from an NSCC regional team member businesses should complete a short intake form at https://www.nscc.ca/sites/covid19-business-support/
  • Small Business Rental Deferral Guarantee Program: The provincial government is encouraging landlords to defer payment of commercial leases for three months and spread those payments over the remainder of the lease agreement. Landlords who enter into a rental deferral agreement with their eligible tenants will be able to claim losses of rental income.
    • Program guidelines can be found here: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/#support
    • Rental deferral agreements must be in place by Wednesday, April 1 and you must register your intent with the Department of Business by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 3, by emailing NSRentDeferral@novascotia.ca
    • By April 30, 2020, the landlord must submit an application to the Department of Business which will include an application form and a copy of the deferral agreement. Each landlord will be contacted directly by the Department.
  • COVID 19 Worker Emergency Bridge - The Worker Emergency Bridge will help people who are no longer working and need help as soon as possible. Nova Scotians laid off or out of work on or after March 16, 2020 due to Covid-19, and ineligible for Employment Insurance, are eligible for a one-time, $1,000 payment to help them meet their basic needs.
  • Small Business COVID 19 Impact Grant - Eligible small business can receive a one-time grant of up to 15 per cent of their revenue from sales for either February 2020 or April 2019, at the option of the business owner, to a maximum of $5,000 per enterprise. The deadline to apply is April 25, 2020.
  • Employer Assessment Tool: The provincial government has created an on-line tool to quickly help employers determine if they may remain open, in compliance with current workplace safety requirements.
  • Changes to Registry Of Joint Stock: All Registry of Joint Stock Company (RJSC) renewals due in March, April and May 2020 have been extended to June 30, 2020.
  • Nova Scotia Tender Notices: Are you a business that can supply products and service in support of Nova Scotia’s response to COVID-19? A procurement portal has been developed and includes a list of needed products and services.
  • Update to The Tenancy and Distress for Rent Act. Effective March 31, 2020 at 6 a.m., landlords are not permitted to change locks or seize property of businesses who cannot pay rent, if the business closed directly because of COVID public health orders.
  • Business Navigators: The Province of Nova Scotia has a business navigator service that will continue to be available as a resource to businesses.
Who is eligible to apply for the provincial COVID-19 Impact Grant? What parameters or thresholds must businesses meet?
  • Small businesses ordered to cease or substantially curtail operations due to certain COVID-19 Orders of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (issued: March 24th, 2020) as identified below can access support through the new Small Business COVID-19 Impact Grant.
    • Restaurants/eating establishments
    • Drinking establishments
    • Personal services (such as hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons, body art establishments)
    • Fitness establishments (such as gyms, yoga and Pilates studios, rock climbing establishments)
    • Non-regulated health professionals (such as massage therapists, osteopaths, acupuncturists, naturopaths)
    • Live, performing arts for audiences (such as live theatre, musical performances)
  • Businesses that pay the small business tax rate on their income taxes (T2 for incorporated businesses); or you are a sole proprietorship or partnership.
    • Those that pay the Small Business Corporate Tax Rate show annual taxable capital (liabilities section of balance sheet) of not more than $15 M
  • Anticipated loss of revenue of 30% or more per enterprise
  • Established before March 15, 2020 (if you are a new business within 15 days of achieving your first revenue from sales on this date, we may still be able to help, please apply)
  • Businesses must be willing to be audited in future
  • The following businesses are NOT eligible:
    • Registered childcare (named in order)
    • Dentists (named in order)
    • Golf courses (named in order)
    • Retail (not named in order)
  • Other financial assistance may be available for businesses that do not qualify for this grant
The COVID-19 Impact Grant is based on revenue from sales for either the month of February 2020, or April 2019. What does this mean for seasonal businesses?

The Small Business COVID-19 Grant program was designed specifically for those businesses who were in operation in March but ordered to close or directed to curtail operations due to the Public Health Order published in March 2020. It is a one-time payment for the month of April aimed to address loss of revenues as a result of the order. The federal and provincial governments are considering other supports for a wider range of small businesses, including tourism businesses.

What is Tourism Nova Scotia doing to help tourism businesses?
  • Our business development team is available to help you navigate newly announced and already existing programs and resources to support you in moving through and beyond this situation.
  • We also have a resource page on our corporate website (www.tourismns.ca/coronavirus) that links to current information and resources. This web page is updated daily as new information becomes available.
  • We have extended the deadline for payment of fees related to the Doers & Dreamers Guide until September 30, 2020.
  • Our research and sector development teams are currently reaching out directly to a variety of operators to learn more about the impacts and better inform TNS’s response strategy and to help guide discussions with government and other partners about ways to support businesses and organizations through this situation.
  • The Tourism Nova Scotia Webinar Series, offers weekly webinars to provide practical information you can use to steer your business through COVID-19 and then rebuild and recover following the pandemic. 
What other supports are available?
What supports are available specifically for tourism businesses?

Impact on TNS Operations and Marketing Activities

What is Tourism Nova Scotia doing in response to COVID-19?
  • Public health and safety is our top concern. As a result, the year-round visitor information centres at Amherst and Halifax Stanfield International Airport are closed until further notice.
    • The tourism contact centre, which handles calls from travellers seeking trip planning information, is open and has resumed travel counselling services. 
    • As an additional precaution, Tourism Nova Scotia corporate offices are closed and staff are working from home.
  • We are in close communication with Destination Canada, our in-market representatives, and industry partners to ensure a coordinated response to tourism impacts.
    • We are participating in multiple working groups to coordinate communication and mitigation efforts.
  • We are engaged in active contingency planning from the perspective of operations, marketing and industry. 
  • The Tourism Nova Scotia Webinar Series, offers weekly webinars to provide practical information you can use to steer your business through COVID-19 and then rebuild and recover following the pandemic.
  • Our research team has developed scenarios for what the post-pandemic recovery could look like in Nova Scotia. Based on this research, we’ve developed a phased marketing plan to help encourage people to explore Nova Scotia as travel markets begin to reopen. The COVID-19 Tourism Recovery Research and Marketing Approach can be found here.
  • We have created resource webpages for the tourism industry (www.tourismns.com/coronavirus) and for travellers (www.novascotia.com/coronavirus). The pages contain current information, recommendations, and other resources related to COVID-19. These pages are updated on a continuous basis and important updates are shared through our inTouch newsletter.
     
What is the impact on TNS’s marketing activities this year?
  • At this time, all marketing campaigns in our key markets of Ontario, Quebec, Northeastern US, UK, Germany and China are on hold until further notice.
  • The most important goal for tourism marketing organizations at this time is to maximize the impact of limited tourism marketing budgets to ensure the strongest recovery possible. 
  • Much of our marketing in international markets like the US, Germany, UK, and China is done in partnership with Destination Canada, the four Atlantic provinces through the Atlantic Canada Agreement on Tourism, tour operators, Halifax Stanfield International Airport and other partners. 
    • We will work collaboratively with all of our partners and in-market representatives to determine next steps.  
  • About one-third of tourism revenues are generated by Nova Scotians travelling in NS. 
    • Earlier this year, TNS began working with our agency record to develop a tourism confidence campaign targeted at Nova Scotians.
    • The campaign aims to inspire pride in all the incredible things Nova Scotia has to offer as a vacation destination. 
    • We see great potential for this campaign to lift the spirits of Nova Scotians and encourage more “stay-cations”.
  • The COVID-19 Tourism Recovery Research and Marketing Approach can be found here.
What’s happening at the Yarmouth VIC?
  • The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) has turned the Yarmouth Visitor Information Centre into a temporary COVID-19 External Primary Assessment Centre.
  • The VIC building is being used only for assessments. No treatment will be provided, and NSHA is arranging for regular cleaning and sanitizing of the clinic in accordance with their strictest hospital standards, and security to ensure the centre is run in an orderly and professional manner.
  • While our Yarmouth VIC typically opens for the season in mid-May, TNS will make decisions about VIC operations as the public health situation evolves.