'Extremely helpful': Province unveils $100M tourism recovery fund
A new $100 million Tourism Recovery Program unveiled by the Ontario government is welcome news for local businesses.
"Our business model is based on people physically coming out to see the winery," says Jamie Quai, winemaker at Quai Du Vin Winery near Sparta, Ont. "They come to see the grounds, walk, tour, taste, relax and when you can't have people out that hurts."
Ontario Tourism Minister Lisa MacLeod says the program will help for-profit tourism businesses in the attraction, accommodation and leisure travel sectors.
The province says the program will support tourism businesses that have experienced a loss of at least 50 per cent of eligible revenue in 2020-21 compared to 2019
"We had just started doing some capital upgrades in 2019 so we were going into a season where we're expecting a large numbers of tourists to show up and when nobody showed up all of a sudden that entire model just got upended, so I'd love some help with that," says Quai.
Eligible tourism businesses include inns and lodges, boat tours, ski centres, live performance venues, cinemas, drive-in theatres and amusement and water parks.
"This year is certainly a lot better than last year because we were able to open in July," says Alon Shatil, general manager of East Park London and board member of Tourism London.
"If we look back at 2020, obviously, that's a big hole to climb out of. I don't want to dwell on ourselves because I would count us as one of the more fortunate ones. If you look the indoor water parks for instance, they have essentially not been able to open for the two years and so this this will be extremely helpful."
Shatil feels this funding could be a lifeline for anyone who is eligible to access it. According to a study by Hellosafe.ca, Canada’s tourism industry lost $52 billion in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic 2019.
"Tourism is such an important industry to Ontario especially in border towns in particular like Niagara Falls and Windsor, " says Shatil.
"They have been impacted by the closed border and that market has been shut down. We first heard about this sort of relief last winter and early spring and we've been waiting for details. I still haven't had a chance to dive in and read all the details but any help and support for industries like tourism, that are so important and have been so adversely affected, it's welcome news."
However not everyone was praising Monday's announcement. The NDP's tourism critic feels the funding should have been provided much earlier.
"We've gone through the summer months and these businesses have been scrambling to find the funds for PPE, for training and advertising," says MPP Michael Mantha.
"This should have rolled out before even the third wave have started. They were one of the first ones that were hit by this pandemic, and unfortunately they were completely forgotten."
Mantha feels many small businesses have been suffering and some after reading the fine print won't even be eligible to receive any support.
"They are operators, that's what they do, they are not individuals that are prepared to put in a whole bunch of investment and time in order to find out that they're not eligible," adds Mantha, the MPP for the riding of Algoma-Manitoulin.
"If you become eligible, how fast would that funding flow? Under other programs by this government people are still waiting to find out if they're going to be receiving the funds or not."
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek says his government has been providing support to these tourism-related businesses throughout the pandemic.
"This is just another bit of support for the tourism industry, and I don't know why anybody would complain about a $100 million fund going out to help all those businesses," says Yurek.
"In Elgin County, Middlesex and parts of London these are the businesses that drive our local economies. They're the ones that hire the most of the employees, and they need the support. This fund that's coming forward we'll help them survive this pandemic and move on to next year. Hopefully it's a strong normal year next year,"
Eligible businesses can apply here beginning Oct. 13.
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