Vancouver’s Science World at risk of going ‘broke’ due to coronavirus pandemic

Add another name to the list of landmark Vancouver attractions that could go under if the novel coronavirus lockdown drags on.

The iconic Science World at the Telus World of Science says it could go under within months of the federal government’s wage subsidy expiring if revenues don’t pick up.

Science World shut down on March 13, as the province rolled out strict social distancing measures.

President and CEO Janet Wood says the institution costs about a million dollars a month to operate, which has been partially offset by about $300,000 in wage subsidies — covering 75 per cent of an employee’s wages — from the federal government.

“Our staff have taken a minimum of a 20 per cent reduction in salary, I have taken a 40 per cent reduction in salary, so we are doing everything we can do reduce our costs,” said Wood.

“But the reality for us is when the subsidy ends, we have three or four months and then we are broke.”

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Science World is not the only major attraction in the region facing financial headwinds. North Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is also dealing with a cash crunch.

“It is very hard to have plans going forward, as the situation is so uncertain,” said communications manager Stacy Chala.

“The government wage subsidy is helpful but ends in June. Unless further wage and business subsidies are made available, tourism businesses such as hotels, restaurants and attractions could permanently close.”

On Wednesday, the Vancouver Aquarium warned it could go bankrupt due to the crisis.

A group of 50 regional tourism operators has formed the Metro Vancouver Tourism and Hospitality Task Force, and is calling on more support from senior levels of government.

The group has sent urgent letters to both federal Tourism Minister Melanie Joly and B.C. Tourism Minister Lisa Beare.

“The wage subsidy is fantastic … if we could enhance that, if we could expand the timing, and if we could potentially put a top up in place to help businesses that can’t even afford to pay that 25 per cent, I think it would really go a long way,” said Nancy Small, Tourism Richmond CEO and task force co-chair.

In the meantime, Wood said Science World’s staff is working to revamp the way the facility operates once it is able to reopen, as many of its exhibits are hands-on.

“That may not be what everybody’s really comfortable with when we reopen,” said Wood.

— With files from Rumina Daya

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