The Boating Ontario Association is urging the province to reclassify marinas as an essential service during the pandemic, warning continued shutdown could lead to permanent closures of marinas and job losses in rural communities.
According to survey results of BOA members, they anticipate losing 29 per cent of gross sales (ranging from dock slips to boat sales) if they are unable to open until June 1.
“When we speak to the loss of jobs, as a seasonal business, if we miss the window of our season (June to October), those jobs are lost until next year,” says Rick Layzell, CEO of BOA. “If we get much past June 1, there will begin to be closures of businesses in the province in our industry.”
Currently, marinas are only allowed to provide service to people needing access to their permanent residence.
The BOA sent a letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford on April 17 requesting a two-phased approach to reopening marinas. First, requesting that delivery of sold and service boats be permitted using a “touchless” process adhering to social distancing protocols by May 1. Layzell says it’s important to get the process started because it takes 4 to 6 weeks to deliver retail inventory and launch boats before people can get out on the water. They are hoping to have marinas back up and running by May 15.
The province has outlined a plan with a three-stage approach for reopening the economy with no timeline in place. The when depends on the evolving situation with COVID and the ability to ensure appropriate measures are in place for workplace safety.
The first stage will involve opening select businesses that were ordered to close or restrict operations that can immediately modify operations to meet public health directives.
While Layzell acknowledges the need to “get through this thing”, he would have liked the Premier to have announced what businesses would fall into stage one.
“Obviously we want marinas to be in that stage,” he said. “Outlining the plan and outlining those businesses and companies in stage one would have been the right thing to do.”
The government is planning a stage-by-stage approach to reopening the economy to ensure there are appropriate measures in place so workplaces can open safely. Public health officials will monitor each stage for two to four weeks, as they assess the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak to determine if they need to change course to maintain public health.
Boating Ontario represents over 500 member companies in Ontario including private and municipal marina operators, boat dealers, brokers, and suppliers.