KINGSTON — Despite uncertainty about when the COVID-19 pandemic will pass, city council approved the reallocation of up to $700,000 to support a rebuilding campaign for Tourism Kingston later this year.
Council voted 10-3 for moving the money to support marketing and operational expenses for the agency.
With an end to the pandemic still in question, some councillors were leery about committing money to an effort to rebuild before it may be safe to do so.
Meadowbrook-Strathcona District Coun. Jeff McLaren, who sits on the board of Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health, said public health experts have warned that it could be two years before a vaccine has been developed and rolled out and the threat of the virus has diminished enough to allow travel to restart.
“Until then, we are incredibly vulnerable, whereas this report seems to suggest we are looking at a three-month timetable to start ramping up again,” he said.
McLaren also suggested that inviting people to travel, even within the surrounding region, may be hazardous.
Sydenham District Coun. Peter Stroud also questioned the wisdom of committing money to a tourism restart plan before it is clearly safe to do so.
But the majority of council were interested in approving the reallocation of funds, money raised through a four per cent tax on accommodation stays, as a way of staying competitive in the sector and being able to capitalize when the pandemic passes.
“We really do want to plant the seeds for tourism,” Lakeside District Coun. Wayne Hill said.
Reallocating the money would prevent the city from having to use tax revenue to support the tourism agency in the coming months, said Mayor Bryan Paterson, who added that no marketing campaign would be launched that did not align with public health advice about travel and social distancing.
Williamsville District Coun. Jim Neill, who also sits on the public health board, contradicted McLaren’s statement that it could be two years before the threat of the virus has diminished.
Neill said there was no consensus about a timeline for the pandemic to end.