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Customer incentives for hospitality industry could help struggling economy: Dal prof

Restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues have been some of the businesses hardest hit by COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions
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A Dalhousie University professor believes governments could help the struggling economy by focusing on stimulating the hospitality industry.

Restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues have been some of the businesses hardest hit by COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions.

Here in Nova Scotia, our tourism industry is facing significant challenges with cruise ships being banned from operating in Canadian waters and travellers from outside the Atlantic bubble being required to self-isolate for 14 days when arriving in the province.

According to Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, the director of Dalhousie's Agri-food Analytics Lab, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce expects up to 60 per cent of restaurants to close permanently by November.

"The sector was worth about $95 billion in sales a year. We actually believe that number will go down to about $60 billion this year, so the drop is quite substantial," he told NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show.

"So you will see a lot of restaurants disappear ... There's just less business around."

Restaurants are struggling with the reduced capacity that comes from spacing tables at least 6 feet apart. Outdoor patios in parking lots and on sidewalks and even streets have helped, but winter is on the way.

Charlebois would like to see other provinces, or even the federal government, follow New Brunswick's lead and offer up incentives to encourage customers to spend money in the hospitality industry.

That province has introduced an up to 20 per cent rebate on vacations taken between July 15 and Sept. 30.

Eligible expenses include accommodations, food and drink, activities, vehicle rentals, ferries and parking.

"They can deduct some of their expenses at the end of the year up to $1,000 if they actually stayed over at a hotel in the province," Charlebois explained.

The United Kingdom is also trying an incentive to get customers into restaurants by offering to cover up to 10 pounds of the bill for anyone dining out on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

Charlebois said those programs are an easy way to get people to stimulate the sector.

He said in New Brunswick's case, once people book a staycation, they're likely to spend money on other purchases and services, which could boost the overall economy.

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