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A room with a bleak view: Hoteliers forecast more pain and a long, slow recovery

A downtown hotel has lights turned on to make the shape of a heart in Vancouver, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. As summer travel season dawns, hoteliers and the broader tourism industry worry they will be hit longest and hardest by the COVID-19 crisis as confinement measures begin to lift but travellers remain largely unwilling or unable to cross borders. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

As summer travel season dawns, hoteliers and the broader tourism industry worry they will be hit longest and hardest by the COVID-19 crisis as confinement measures begin to lift but travellers remain largely unwilling or unable to cross borders.

Canada’s $102-billion tourism sector, already decimated by a near total dropoff in commercial and leisure travel, hopes to salvage some business through regional trips and late-summer events.

To ride out the crunch, hotel operators are calling for a delay on debt and property tax payments while tourism groups demand more clarity from government on inter-provincial travel guidelines.

Downtown Toronto’s SoHo hotel, which laid off 85 per cent of its staff after closing shop on March 20, plans to reopen in July or August, despite reports Wednesday of an extended border shutdown with the United States until late July.

General Manager David Kelley says visits to the city may creep upward as restaurants and tourist attractions unlock their doors, but that hotel bookings ultimately hinge on the confidence of would-be travellers.

The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario says one-quarter of its members have closed temporarily and one in three has laid off more than 75 per cent of their employees.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2020.

The Canadian Press