The COVID-19 crisis ravaged large swathes of the economy, perhaps none more fully than the tourism industry. That sector continues to struggle even as restrictions are eased, and will likely be among the slowest to recover.
With that situation in mind, the province last week pledged up to $783,000 in support for tourism in Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington counties.
Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris made the announcement June 25 alongside Lisa MacLeod, provincial minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture, joined by other local MPPs.
The goal is to boost the fortunes of attractions, from amusement parks to farmers’ markets, seeing large decreases as Ontarians opt to stay home and regulations force them to limit access or even to remain closed.
“The tourism industry in particular was hit pretty hard by COVID-19. And, unfortunately, given the public health circumstances, [it’s] been one of the last pieces of the economy to open back up, just given the fact that we’re often looking at larger groups of people, larger settings, where these types of events or different things are taking place. So, we want to try to give the tourism sector and people that want to get out and want to start experiencing things again in their home province [the chance to do so],” said Harris, who was joined by MacLeod at Murphy’s Law Moonshine in Elmira.
“[We] want to make sure that we’re giving the industry an opportunity to try to catch up and also want to make sure that we’re keeping things as safe as possible for people allowing the bells in the market, for example, and St. Jacobs market, for example, to install some new protective measures.”
This funding will be delivered through a partnership between Destination Ontario and Destination Canada. The local regional tourism organization will receive up to $350,000 to provide a boost to small businesses. Alongside that, $100,000 will be given to Festival and Events Ontario to help with the undertaking of marketing efforts.
More funding will also be coming to help five festivals in the region, through the Celebrate Ontario Program. While the details have yet to be announced, $333,000 will be coming to assist these larger scale events. Oktoberfest will also get some help through these times as Harris says the government will be contributing $100,000.
The government also announced the launch of Ontario Live, a hub designed to promote and support businesses in the tourism, sport and creative sectors. This platform is meant to give those hosting events which would normally see audiences gather, a virtual space with which they can still put on a live show or other form of content and have people view it from a safe social distance.
“If you’re hosting, live events or a webcast or something along those lines [this gives you the platform to host it and] … people have been able to broadcast through that. But it’s more of a collaborative space where industries can put their content in one place to allow folks to be able to access it better. So, it’s been a great tool. It’s seen a lot of uptake over the last the last month or two and [we’re] really excited to kind of see where this moves going forward,” said Harris.