$1 billion in funding to keep Ontario’s tourism sector afloat: MacLeod

Merna Emara
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Ontario’s Tourism Minister Lisa MacLeod said in her eighth telephone town hall that the total funding for the province’s heritage, sports, tourism and culture sectors added up to $1 billion from April 1 to August 1, 2020. There were about 600 stakeholders listening to the minister’s update and breakdown of the funding.

“Over the last four months, we have announced nearly $300 million in direct investment to support our sectors including over $200 million to the Ontario Arts Council, Ontario Trillium Fund and Ontario Arts Attraction Fund,” MacLeod said. “For heritage and cultural institutions, we continue to invest more than $27 million and $21 million to support 380 of our public libraries.”

In addition, $13 million were invested in the tourism sector provided through destination Ontario to support marketing efforts in each one of the 13 Regional Tourism Organizations.

We are investing $13.5 million in the sports sector to support amateur and professional athletes, including an additional $8.3 million to support our sports organization through the Ontario Amateur Sports Fund.

Laurie Marcil, executive director at Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario, said in an email update that given the reality of a very limited summer season and the potential loss of a fall season for those who offer fall hunting packages to non-residents, they are focused on lobbying on financial support from both the provincial and federal governments that will help their tourism sector survive to 2021.

“Each and every day we are talking with MPs and MPPs and decision makers to ensure they realize that in order to help the Ontario/Canadian economy recover from COVID-19, they must invest in our tourism sector now,” Marcil said in the email update. “As discussions continue we will be coming to you with surveys specific to our sector. We need data to ensure our recommendations for stimulus packages will be most effective and inclusive.”

July marks the fourth month since the province of Ontario has taken preventative measures against the spread of COVID-19 before slowly opening up services over the course of the last few weeks.

“Today begins the long road to recovery and social recovery from COVID-19,” MacLeod said. “We arrived at this place thanks to the dedication and determination of our public health professionals, social workers and of course working millions of Ontarians who cooperated every way to this point.

Even though Ontario is slowly opening up under the supervision of public health professionals, MacLeod said most Ontarians are not comfortable going out for leisure activities that involve being in close proximity with other people.

According to MacLeod, market research indicates that 43 per cent of Ontarians are uncomfortable attending a gallery or a museum, 60 per cent are uncomfortable attending an outdoor entertainment facility, 75 per cent are uncomfortable going to a large concert venue and 55 per cent said they would not be comfortable allowing their child to attend music lessons.

Within a cultural sector, MacLeod said she will also be investing $375,000 into Ontario Culture Days to show people the world of the province. Finally, we are continuing to support our Regional Tourism Organization with $20 million if they play an essential role in supporting small businesses to redesign and adapt their operations following COVID-19, MacLeod added.

“It is important as a province to invest in marketing, first with dollars, but secondly with our own demonstrating commitment to the rigorous health and safety protocols we have in place to protect us and others while enjoying the best this province has to offer,” MacLeod said. “We’ve been hit first, hardest and we will take the longest to recover.”