TORONTO - On June 23, the Ontario government released a report to guide the recovery of the province’s tourism industry. This comes one week ahead of Canada day, when the school year comes to an end and families embark on their summer vacation adventures.
International travel restrictions during Covid-19 have prompted many Ontario families to explore local destinations and support the local economy. But it has not been easy. Countless festivals and events were forced to cancel or reschedule due to Covid-19 and concerns for public health.
As travel restrictions continue, the emphasis is on boosting the local tourism industry. The report, prepared by the Tourism Economic Recovery Ministerial Task Force, revealed ten key recommendations aimed at rebuilding and reshaping the sector in Ontario.
Some key recommendations include reducing red tape for tourism businesses, measures to restore consumer confidence through public health collaboration and new opportunities to showcase the best experiences Ontario has to offer.
“Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on Ontario’s tourism industry” said Lisa MacLeod, Minster of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Cultures Industries in a press release. The sector has been hit the hardest from an economic perspective and will take the longest to recover.
The province is taking action toward a rebound of activity in the sector. “The recommendations and proposals presented in this report will play a vital role in helping our government develop a clear path forward to ensure the long-term recovery of Ontario’s tourism industry”, the Minister added.
Tourism is key player in Ontario’s economic recovery. The industry supports more than 400,000 jobs and generates more than $36 billion in spending. With the Canada/US border closed to international non-essential travel, Toronto alone lost nearly $8.4 billion in 2020 due to the loss in tourism activity.
In Niagara Region, a new survey suggests area businesses lost $388.5 million in revenue. The region is largely dependant on tourism, roughly one in three visitors are international travellers.
With a goal of highlighting Ontario as a top travel destination, Tim Hudak, Chair of the Task Force said, “the work of this group will also play a key role in getting Ontarians back on the payroll in our tourism and hospitality sectors”.
At the same time, the introduction of multi-year operational funding programs will help keep tourism organizations, businesses and operators afloat during the 3-5 year recovery timeline.
Part of the provincial “roadmap to reopen” is dependant on vaccination rates. Ontario has met the vaccination threshold for a further easing of restrictions. More than 76% of Ontarians aged 18+ have received their first shot. Over 25% of that same cohort are fully vaccinated. Supporters of a full reopening argue it is time to transition from Step 1, past Step 2 and into Step 3, the final stage of the economic plan to reopen.
The sooner the province eases restrictions on more indoor/outdoor activities, dining and events, the sooner Ontarians will be able to explore and experience more of their “own backyard” and help rebuild a starved tourism industry.