Thousands laid off in Bow Valley as tourism screeches to a halt
CALGARY -- As many as 4,000 workers were laid off in Banff this week after the mountain resort town declared a local state of emergency.
In the Bow Valley — an area almost entirely built on tourism — the unprecedented shutdown of nearly all business and travel has sent a shock through the community, rapidly eclipsing the impacts of 9/11, forest fires or the 2013 flood.
On Wednesday, Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen’s normally upbeat personality was clearly struggling to stay visible.
"These are dire circumstances," Sorensen said. "We are in a very serious situation."
"For your own health, for the health of our community, for the supply system to support the medical world, it’s best if we all do whatever we can to stay home," she said.
Doctors in the B.C. lake resort town of Invermere went so far as to post an open letter to Alberta residents who own properties there, asking they stay home and not put any additional strain on limited medical resources.
Leslie Bruce with Banff Lake Louise Tourism said there are more layoffs still to come.
“We’re a town of about 9,000 people and it gives you a sense of the impact that this is having on our economy and the people that live here,” Bruce said.
"We need funding support and we need funding support immediately."
Bruce said both the province and Ottawa are trying their best to keep up, but very quickly even Banff’s most established businesses could be in jeopardy.
Discover Banff Tours runs a fleet of 27 tour buses, with two offices in the town and a staff accommodation building. In a little more than a week their business has ground to a halt.
General Manager Daymon Miller said he feels nauseous as he faces the sudden reality of life under lockdown. Like many others, Discovery Banff has been forced to let valuable staff go.
"They’re all essential to running a tourism experience and we need those people," says Miller. "We want them to be back as soon as possible, working."