For Immediate Release
Jan. 19, 2021

VANCOUVER, B.C. —Greater Vancouver businesses were left counting the cost of the global pandemic at the end of 2020 according to new data released by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. The information gathered in a survey of the Board of Trade’s members, done in partnership with the Mustel group, alongside its annual Region in Review report, provides a snapshot of the challenges that continue to face organizations as we head into the year ahead. 

When it comes to counting the cost of COVID-19, 62% of businesses are still experiencing decreased sales volumes as a result of the pandemic. More worrying still, seven-in-ten of businesses impacted by holiday spending report lower holiday season revenues compared to previous years, vital revenue that many rely on during the leaner winter months ahead. 

With almost half (48%) of respondents predicting that they expect lower revenues in the next three to six months, four-in-ten expecting to reduce their investments, the future is anything but certain for Greater Vancouver businesses. Indeed, even as the long-awaited vaccines roll out across Canada, only 31% of respondents are optimistic about the B.C. economy. The only bright spot when it comes to investment is that fully six-in-ten plan to continue to increase investments in digital technology. 

The survey results were released today and presented as part of GVBOT’s 32nd Annual Economic Outlook Forum, which provides our region's business leaders with a detailed and insightful look at the road to economic recovery in the year ahead.

Key findings

Counting the cost of COVID-19

While attention has focussed on the region’s hospitality and tourism sectors, businesses across the economic spectrum are counting the cost of COVID-19.

  • Businesses’ bottom lines are being squeezed with the survey revealing that many companies are facing increased operating costs (36%). 
  • On the positive side, four-in-ten businesses have introduced or increased their online or digital presence. Some have also introduced new products (21%) and increased sales volumes (16%). 
  • More than a third (33%) of businesses have deferred or cancelled capital projects while 28% have had to postpone contracts or tenders and 26% have delayed or axed marketing projects. 
  • 32% of businesses have had to layoff staff while 31% have reduced hours to cope with lost revenues.

No return to business as usual 

Despite the hope provided by vaccines, many businesses do not expect to return to business as usual in 2021.

  • Seven-in-ten businesses operating in offices do not anticipate the majority of their employees being back in the workplace until the summer of ’21 or later. Approximately one-in-ten do not expect the majority to ever return.
  • One-in-four will request or incentivize employees to receive a vaccine before returning.
  • Businesses revealed they believe COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the workplace with increased reliance on digital means for communication (70%), expansion of work from home policies (62%) and a reduction in office space requirements (34%) among the most common responses.

Economic outlook 

Views are mixed regarding the future of the Canadian and BC economies, but businesses are more optimistic about their own prospects with 41% saying they had hope for the road ahead. 

  • Going forward, half of businesses (49%) expect their revenues in 3-6 months to still be lower compared to pre-pandemic and more than four-in-ten businesses expect to reduce their business investments in the next 12 months.
  • 67% of businesses are concerned about the government deficit as a result of COVID-19. 
  • Worryingly just 49% of businesses expect to return to business as usual when government support ends. Meanwhile 24% expect to layoff employees, 22% are getting ready to reduce employee hours and 16% will take on debt to cover costs. 

Provincial/government supports

Generally, businesses believe the province could be providing more support for their business to succeed through the pandemic. 

  • To-date only small groups have applied for provincial government programs.
    • 10% Increased Employment Incentive: 15% refundable tax credit based on eligible new payroll 
    • 13% SME Recovery Grant: $300 million in recovery grants to support SMEs most impacted by COVID-19 
    • The main reasons for not applying are lack of awareness along with not meeting the criteria of the SME Grant. 
  • One-third of businesses report challenges in finding available childcare spaces during or before the pandemic(almost half of businesses for whom childcare is required).
  • The reduced school tax provided by the BC government for commercial properties has been helpful for the majority of businesses for whom it applies



While many hoped that the new year would offer some light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, these results show that many businesses are barely treading water as they enter 2021,” said Bridgitte Anderson, President & CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. “The near-term outlook is uncertain, with many leaders anxious about what the future holds for their businesses. Our entrepreneurs are resilient and are investing and pivoting to digital as they forge a path that will help them to not only navigate the pandemic but guide our region to prosperity in the future.” 

A copy of the full survey results can be found here. Graphics are also available upon request.


About the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade:

Since its inception in 1887, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade has been recognized as Pacific Canada's leading business association, engaging members to impact public policy at all levels of government and to succeed and prosper in the global economy. With a Membership whose employees comprise one-third of B.C.'s workforce, we are the largest business association between Victoria and Toronto. We leverage this collective strength, facilitating networking opportunities, and providing professional development through four unique Signature Programs. In addition, we operate one of the largest events programs in the country, providing a platform for national and international thought leaders to enlighten B.C.'s business leaders.

About Mustel Group
The Mustel Group is a team of collaborative experts delivering customized market research solutions for clients in both the public and private sectors. We have helped organizations maximize their potential for over 25 years.

About the survey
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade with assistance by Mustel Group has conducted a survey among its members to measure opinions on various economic issues, and specifically the impact of COVID-19 and government measures to assist businesses. A total of 134 members completed the survey from January 5 to 12th, 2021.


Media contact:

Daniel Bettridge
Communications Manager
Greater Vancouver Board of Trade
604-640-5454 |

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