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  • 04 Aug 2022 by Jessica Ng

    This week, we submitted TIAO’s contribution to the Federal Tourism Growth Strategy. Our contribution addressed the consultation’s focus areas—labour gaps and instability, investment attraction and destination development, and long-term economic growth across the country—through the lens of four critical themes: economic, labour, infrastructure, and sustainable tourism.  

    Our overarching message was that in order for tourism businesses to fully leverage the opportunities for growth and prosperity and in order for the industry to move forward, there are still a number of barriers to overcome first—with many of these barriers producing an uneven pace of recovery for tourism sectors and regions across the province. Addressing these immediate and systemic economic, labour, infrastructure, and sustainability barriers will help ensure that tourism businesses fully recover from the effects of the past two years and can be in a position to cultivate economic growth over the long-term.  

    As such, we called for:  

    • Debt relief measures
    • Tax and financial incentives to support the return of meetings, conventions, events, and live entertainment
    • A Tourism Workforce Strategy with measures to promote tourism as a career, immigration reform to attract and retain talent of all skill levels, investments in future talent, and ensuring workforce decision-making is data-driven, locally-, and regionally-specific   
    • Investing in bus and passenger rail links to connect rural destinations
    • Mandates to ensure the building of more affordable housing purchases, including purpose-built rentals
    • Climate change prevention and mitigation supports for resource-based tourism operators  
    • Permanent personal income tax credits to incentivize domestic travel over the long-term
    • Strategies to ensure future seamless inbound travel for US visitors  

    To read our full list of recommendations, click here for our submission and here to read TIAC’s submission.

    Over the past two weeks, we’ve also made a number of media appearances discussing the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit, ArriveCAN issues, what’s behind the delays at Toronto Pearson airport, and the impact of travel barriers on visitors.  

    As always, thank you for your continued support. And of course, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email at jng@tiaontario.ca.




    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs

     

  • 28 Jul 2022 by Jessica Ng

    Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working hard in preparation for the 2022 conference of the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO), where we will be meeting with cabinet ministers and their teams to discuss pressing issues impacting the rebuild of the tourism industry. Joining us will be our tourism delegation, consisting of: Destination Northern Ontario, Indigenous Tourism Ontario, OTEC, Boating Ontario, OMCA, Camping in Ontario, Smart Serve, RTO9, Kingston Accommodation Partners, and Blue Mountain Village Association.  

    Key AMO asks include: debt relief and action on commercial insurance, implementing a tourism workforce strategy, new tax incentives and partnerships to spur tourism growth, creating regional and localized solutions to the affordable housing crisis, continued transportation and infrastructure upgrades, climate change prevention and recovery supports, and long-term strategic investments to support the rebuild, growth, and resilience of our industry across tourism sectors and regions.  

    We are still scheduling meetings, but we have confirmed meetings so far with: Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport; Ministry of Northern Development; Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry; Ministry of Indigenous Affairs; Ministry of Transportation; Ministry of Francophone Affairs; Ministry of Colleges and Universities; Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks; Ministry of the Attorney General; Ministry of Infrastructure; Ministry of Energy; Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility; and the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery.  

    We also have a meeting scheduled with Mayor Cam Guthrie, chair of the Ontario Big City Mayors (OBCM). The OBCM is comprised of mayors of Ontario cities with populations of 100,000 or more – collectively representing 70% of Ontario’s population. The key agenda items for discussion: the impact of rising visible homeless and vulnerable populations in Ontario cities, their impact on the safety of frontline tourism and hospitality workers, what Ontario’s big cities are doing to address the situation, and how TIAO can help advocate for the types of resources municipalities need to address a multi-pronged challenge.

    AMO 2022 takes place August 14 – 17 in Ottawa. The countdown has begun.  

    This week, we also made a number of TV and media appearances discussing the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit. We also talked about what’s behind the delays at Toronto Pearson airport—emphasizing the impact of the labour crisis and legacy public health measures such as ArriveCAN slowing down processing times—how they’re impacting the capacity of tourism businesses to reach current and future visitors, and what needs to happen to address the situation.  

    As always, thank you for your continued support. And of course, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email at jng@tiaontario.ca.

     




    Jessica Ng

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs

     

  • 14 Jul 2022 by Jessica Ng

    It’s been another busy week at TIAO, with movement and traction on some key files to report:

    Yesterday, the province announced that in addition to expanding second booster shot eligibility to Ontarians aged 18 and older, it would extend its distribution of free rapid antigen tests beyond July 31st. Free rapid tests will be available to the general public until December 31, 2022 through existing channels like grocery stores and pharmacies, as well as in workplaces, schools, hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes and other congregate settings.  

    TIAO welcomes this announcement. Over the past many months, TIAO has advocated for the province to expand its supply of free rapid antigen tests and to extend distribution to the general public beyond July 31, raising the issue with ministries at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference and in our pre-budget submission. With testing being a critical component to reducing COVID-19 transmission, reducing worker absenteeism, and keeping our communities and workplaces safe, access to free rapid tests supports the capacity of tourism businesses as they rebuild. TIAO will continue to advocate for expanding general public access to PCR tests.

    In a post-meeting update from TIAO’s Northern Ontario Tourism Roundtable last week, MP Eric Melillo (Shadow Minister for FedNor and MP for Kenora) urged Canada’s Minister of Public Safety to immediately end all remaining border restrictions in order to support the tourism industry. In his letter to Minister Mendicino, MP Melillo referenced the challenges tourism operators spoke to at the roundtable in relation to random testing, the vaccine mandate, and the ArriveCAN app. MP Melillo reiterated the message put forward by NOTO, Destination Northern Ontario, and our operators: the remaining border restrictions are curtailing visitation in Northern Ontario at a precarious time and may have lasting economic impact. We thank MP Melillo and look forward to continued collaboration on removing all travel restrictions and rebuilding Northern tourism economies.  

    With the uneven pace of economic recovery and rebuilding—especially for Northern regions and the rubber tire tourism market—debt relief is more important than ever before. TIAO continues to fight for debt relief for the tourism industry through all possible avenues. However, we’ve been made aware of some worrying practices being demonstrated by some banks in relation to ongoing financing with tourism businesses who continue to suffer from reduced revenues and increasing costs. In partnership with our colleagues at the Ontario Motor Coach Association, we launched a short survey to determine the nature of these practices and their extent, as well as to capture the true economic state of the tourism industry.  

    Our initial findings show that as of July, year-to-date debt accumulation for 2022 is already 10 percentage points higher than year-end debt levels for 2019. And while more than half of respondents had some type of loan relief during COVID-19—whether in the form of interest-only payments, loan extensions, or payment freezes—69% of respondents reported that their primary lender is no longer continuing to provide these same options. In fact, for the overwhelming majority of respondents, their primary lender: is currently requesting full principal and interest payments (77%); is requesting additional personal collateral to refinance their business (85%); and/or is requesting that they refinance their business (94%).  

    With two-thirds of respondents estimating that they are at least 2 years away from being profitable again, there is an immediate need for continued debt relief to support the economic viability of tourism businesses across our industry. With our partners, we are continuing to advocate for debt relief, especially for CEBA and RRRF loans—which we recently spoke about with our Conservative colleagues at the Northern Ontario Tourism Roundtable. Stay tuned for updates on our progress with this file.  

    Thank you for your continued support. And of course, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email at jng@tiaontario.ca
     



     

    Jessica Ng
    Director, Policy & Government Affairs

     

  • This week, I joined my colleague Carol Greenwood in Chicago at the Great Lakes Economic Forum held by the Council of the Great Lakes Region. It was an opportunity to further entrench our relationships with our neighbours and share ideas about economic development and sustainability. We heard from Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, about the importance of tourism to the region and from business leaders about their perspectives on how to respond to our labour crisis and where the opportunities for growth through collaboration were emerging. The Great Lakes region is an economic powerhouse, contributing towards $6 trillion in GDP and supporting fifty million jobs in Canada and the United States. TIAO will continue to work with CGLR to ensure that the tourism industry in Ontario can benefit from shared economic development.  

    However, whilst we were discussing further forms of collaboration and sharing best practice, devastating news was simultaneously released that the federal government intends to extend current border restrictions to September 30. Despite our G7 counterparts lifting their final health restrictions and obstacles to travel, the Canadian federal government has decided to go in a direction that will severely restrict our industry's ability to maximize the summer season and ultimately recover. 

    Only last week TIAO joined our colleagues from NOTO and Destination Northern Ontario to highlight the critical situation in Northern Ontario and our border towns as we called on the government to axe remaining obstacles to travel. These obstacles have led to over a $100 million in cancellations in Northern Ontario alone and despite this month’s increase in U.S. residents taking trips into Canada through land ports, the number of trips remains at half (50.8%) of the U.S. residents who arrived by automobile during the same month in 2019. We just can’t go on like this. However, the fight continues and next week TIAO is holding a meeting with Conservative Federal Tourism Critic, Michelle Ferreri MP, to discuss the situation in Northern Ontario and call for greater scrutiny on border decision making. 

    Last Friday we welcomed a new Minister to the newly renamed Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport in Minister Neil Lumsden. Since then, Sheref Sabawy was reappointed as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport and Laura Smith MPP has also been appointed as a Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister. Finally, we also have a new Deputy Minister in place as Nina Chiarelli takes over from Sarah Harrison. TIAO welcomes MPP Smith and Deputy Minister Chiarelli to their new roles and looks forward to working together for the benefit of the tourism industry. 

    Tomorrow is Canada Day and the TIAO office will be closed and reopening on Monday. However you spend the long weekend, I hope you are able to enjoy it with loved ones. 

     

     

     



    Chris Bloore
    President & CEO         
         

  • Across the globe, international governments are lifting restrictions on unvaccinated travellers and removing final obstacles to travel.  

    Yet in Canada, despite recent announcements on temporary changes to border procedures at our airports, there is no plan in place to allow unvaccinated travellers to visit Canada.  

    In addition, the ArriveCAN application, originally implemented as part of an emergency order under the Quarantine Act for public health, continues to prove a barrier to travel.  

    In a recent House of Commons Committee meeting, MPs heard of the damaging impact that COVID-19 has had on our border towns and tourism industry from TIAC President and CEO Beth Potter, but also, Mark Weber, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, who said the app has CBSA officers acting as "IT consultants" for travellers and is “an incredible drain on resources. It's a drain on time.” 

    But while European and other international governments are dropping mandates, remaining restrictions in Canada are severely restricting the industry's ability to recover. Despite this month’s increase in U.S. residents taking trips into Canada through land ports, the number of trips remains at half (50.8%) of the U.S. residents who arrived by automobile during the same month in 2019. This is simply untenable for the resource-based tourism industry in Northern Ontario, our border towns and is having a major impact on the number of tourists throughout Ontario.  

    At the same time when inflation and gas prices are soaring, businesses across Ontario are facing a perfect storm of conditions that could see some businesses decide to close for the season. A recent report by Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO) demonstrated that already this season, over $100 million has been lost in cancellations as American tourists cancel their plans to visit Ontario.  

    As a member of the Northern Ontario Border Working Group, TIAO joined NOTO, Destination Northern Ontario and frontline operators joined for a press conference to call on the government to end the following remaining border requirements: 1. Random testing at land border crossings. 2. Vaccination of international tourists. 3. Use of ArriveCAN. 

    The economic legacies of the pandemic, most notably debt, will continue to act as a millstone around the recovery of the tourism industry and TIAO will continue to work with TIAC to push for the writing off of debt incurred during the pandemic. But, the continued inability of our industry to compete on a level playing field with our international competitors continues to make it impossible for our industry to recover. It’s time for Canada to join other leading countries the G7 in adapting our response to the pandemic and remove vaccine mandates, random testing and the need to use ArriveCAN. 

    You can watch the entire press conference, including remarks from NOTO’s Executive Director Laurie Marcil, David MacLachlan, Executive Director of Destination Northern Ontario, frontline operators and myself by clicking here or watch CTV’s coverage here.  

     

     

     


    Chris Bloore
    President & CEO   
               

  • This week, we saw an important step taken towards normalizing travel:

    Earlier this week, the federal government announced it will drop the vaccine mandate for domestic and outbound travel, federally regulated transportation sectors, and federal government employees. As of June 20, vaccination will no longer be required to board a plane or train in Canada and employers in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine sectors will no longer be required to have mandatory vaccination policies in place for employees.  

    As the pandemic has evolved and new tools have emerged to control the impact of COVID-19, TIAO has been advocating for government to remove barriers to travel. As such, we welcome this move and the opportunities it will provide the tourism industry and broader visitor economy: it will help increase provincial and inter-provincial travel, help address staffing challenges in federally regulated transportation sectors, and help streamline processes at our airports – resulting in a better customer experience.  

    But while we are encouraged by the announcement, TIAO is still concerned about the unanswered questions of when unvaccinated travellers will be able to visit Canada and, crucially, when ArriveCAN will be eliminated or processes simplified and made more accessible for travellers. These are concerns we have been raising on TV and radio appearances this week, as we have been speaking to what the changes will mean for the tourism industry.

    With cross-border land travel between the United States and Canada still at only 50.8% of normal travel volumes, border towns are bearing the brunt of the vaccine mandate for foreign nationals. Reliant on US clientele for upwards of 90% of their business, northern Ontario tourism operators are again seeing cancellations from US visitors due to the vaccine mandate - but also ArriveCAN requirements.  

    The mandatory use of ArriveCAN is creating challenges for inbound foreign nationals, as well as Canadians returning from abroad. With ArriveCAN only allowing submissions up to 72 hours in advance of arriving in Canada, travellers on longer trips and without a smartphone are left with few options if they can't locate a business centre. As a result, seniors in particular have been impacted, with many deterred from travelling altogether. In other cases, it has meant added costs for businesses, with some tour operators resorting to purchasing printers to bring onboard the tour bus in order to print ArriveCAN receipts.   

    And so, while this week’s announcement was an important step for the tourism industry, there is still more that needs to be done. We need to remove the vaccine mandate for all travellers in all directions; and if ArriveCAN isn’t to be eliminated entirely, we need to simplify the processes and remove the 72-hour window to submit the required information, making use of ArriveCAN easier and more accessible for more travellers. TIAO will continue working with federal counterparts to remove these remaining obstacles to travel – only then will the tourism industry and wider visitor economy truly be able to recover.  

    Thank you for your continued support. And of course, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send us an email at cbloore@tiaontario.ca and jng@tiaontario.ca.


     

     

     

     

    Chris Bloore
    President & CEO               


     

     

    Jessica Ng
    Director, Policy & Government Affairs

  • Over the past weeks, TIAO has been working hard to make tourism a key election issue.  

    TIAO has been meeting with candidates of all political parties to talk about why Ontario needs tourism; the state of tourism recovery; the opportunities for jobs, community infrastructure, and economic growth if we get recovery right; and how each party can support the tourism industry as we move beyond the pandemic.  

    To join us in these meetings, we’ve invited TIAO members in each candidate’s riding—including individual businesses, DMOs, and tourism officials—to provide a local perspective of the challenges and opportunities facing local tourism, from Kenora-Rainy River to Sudbury, Oxford County to Niagara Falls, Kitchener-Waterloo to Scarborough-Guildwood, and many more.

    With over 20 meetings and counting and with just a week to go until the election, our job is far from over. We need to keep tourism on the agenda of all candidates vying for office. We encourage you to keep sending letters to your local candidates using our push politics tool on our mini-site, and we encourage you to keep sharing our key messages with the hashtag #OntarioNeedsTourism – see here for our election toolkit.

    Thank you for your continued support. And of course, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email at jng@tiaontario.ca.

     


    Dr. Jessica Ng
    Director of Policy and Government Affairs

  • There are just two weeks until election day in Ontario and I want to thank every TIAO member and stakeholder that has accessed, shared or encouraged others to visit our non-partisan election website ontarioneedstouirsm.ca . In just two weeks we’ve had over 1,000 unique hits on our website, arranged over 30 meetings with election candidates and had over 140 media hits on the key issues affecting tourism, including twelve broadcast interviews. Every time you share ontarioneedstourism.ca or use the hashtag #OntarioNeedsTourism on social media it encourages more people to utilize our election toolkit and helps us ensure prospective MPP’s from all parties fully understand the challenges still faced by the tourism industry in Ontario. With two weeks to go, we’re arranging new meetings with candidates on a daily basis, so please to continue to share our resources and if you haven’t already sent your letter, why not do it this evening!  

    Away from the provincial election, there was an important announcement from Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, as he officially opened up a consultation on the renewal of Canada’s Federal Tourism Growth Strategy.  

    TIAC President and CEO, Beth Potter, has confirmed that the consultation, which is now open until July 20, “will encompass two key initiatives:  i) by-invitation-only roundtables on each the themes of Destination Development, Sports Tourism, Rural Tourism, Culinary Tourism, Labour and Workforce, Community and Culture, and Indigenous Tourism, as well as a number of regional roundtables which will cover all these themes, and ii) written submissions.  We understand the intention is to conclude all the roundtables by end of June.”   

    TIAO intends to put forward its own recommendations to the consultation and will be engaging you on what should be in our submission shortly. It’s vital that as we slowly exit the pandemic, this new updated strategy reflects a whole government approach to securing the future prosperity of the tourism industry in Canada.  In the meantime, if you have questions about the process, please don’t hesitate to contact us. You can visit the consultation website here to learn more. 

    Finally, TIAO, recently met with Minister Boissonnault alongside our colleagues from the Culinary Tourism Alliance, George Brown College, Destination Toronto and Executive Chef and business owner Thompson Tran, to discuss the future advancement of culinary tourism in Ontario. It was an excellent discussion and it was exciting to hear the Minister’s passion for the future of culinary tourism in Ontario and Canada as a whole. 

     

     

     

     

    Christopher Bloore,

    President and CEO.

  • Like many of you, my mailbox has started to fill with election literature; local candidates have started to knock on doors and this week the NDP, following on from the Liberal Party, released their election platform. The Ontario Provincial election is almost officially upon us and today the Progressive Conservative government released its final budget of this parliament, one that will be delivered if they are successfully re-elected in June. A breakdown of some of the key budget announcements and details from the NDP platform can be found later in the newsletter. 

    Next week, TIAO will be launching our own non-partisan election microsite OntarioNeedsTourism.ca, encouraging members of the industry and the public to engage local candidates in your riding on the important issues affecting the tourism industry. Our aim is simple; we want every re-elected or newly elected MPP to understand the challenges the industry faces in its recovery and gather support for TIAO’s recommendations to foster growth and opportunities - specifically, how we can support the return of tourism by working to remove all remaining barriers to travel, support the growth of tourism businesses by working to address regulatory burdens, remove red tape, and cut taxes, ensure the recovery and sustainability of tourism by working to address the industry-wide labour crisis and help rebuild tourism as a key economic driver by working to address the financial challenges of tourism businesses and supporting long-term industry investment. 

    OntarioNeedsTourism.ca will be officially launched next week and will include our election toolkit and key messages and images that you can share alongside the hashtag #OntarioNeedsTourism. In an election that will be fought on many important issues, by working together to engage candidates, we can ensure that the tourism industry remains front and centre of any discussions about the future of our economy. 

    Moving away from the election for the moment, TIAO was delighted to see the Federal Government announce its intention to restart federal economic immigration programs and extend international students’ expiring work permits while they are waiting for their permanent residence applications to be processed. Whilst we’re still awaiting some details, this is an important step by the Federal Government to recognize the labour crisis that many sectors are currently enduring and can be an important piece of the puzzle in meeting an expected summer of increased consumer demand and our long-term labour challenges. 

    Earlier this week a tourism delegation led by TIAO’S Director of Policy and Government Affairs, Dr. Jessica Ng, held a roundtable event with key members of staff from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries on the Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT). In a wide-ranging discussion about MAT, several key areas were discussed including challenges on collecting MAT and future funding arrangements. There has never been a more important time for us to be discussing the long-term economic future of the tourism industry, of which MAT will be a key component. For more information on the roundtable and future MAT discussions please contact Jess directly by emailing here.

    Finally, please note that the next Building Inclusive Tourism Webinar is on May 11, entitled ‘Job Vacancies? Consider the Disability Talent Pool’. You can register for this complimentary webinar by clicking here. 

    Christopher Bloore,
    President & CEO

  • Hello and welcome to the latest edition of TIAO’s weekly newsletter. As we head into the long weekend, we wanted to thank you for your continued support of the work that TIAO does and we hope that you are able to enjoy a weekend with your friends and families.  

    This week, TIAO launched its pre-election survey designed to capture your views as the short campaign for the Ontario Provincial Election is set to begin. The information we collect will lay the foundations for our work during the provincial election. At a critical time for the tourism industry, when our recovery is far from secured, we need to ensure that prospective members of the provincial parliament are fully aware of the challenges we face. We need to utilize our relationships with all political parties and the media to make sure the issues that matter to the tourism industry are raised and answered during the election. So please complete the survey by clicking here and please share as widely as possible. 

    Also happening this week, the funding portals for Tourism Relief Funding from RTO’s and ITO in partnership with FedDev Ontario opened. Please visit the dedicated RTO TRF site for the fund by clicking here where you can also learn more about the program and find your own dedicated portal for your local RTO to find details on how to apply and important dates associated with your application. If you have questions or would like advice about your application, please don’t hesitate to contact the TIAO team or use the contact details provided by your local RTO. 

    On this week's TIAO stakeholder calls we went through the recent federal government budget, picking out some of the key announcements pertaining to the tourism industry and the wider economy. You can download our slides from that call further down in this newsletter. On the call itself, we expressed our disappointment that key recommendations put forward by the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses and TIAC were not taken up by the federal government. The decision not to extend financial support for the tourism industry is unfortunate because as we all know, reopening doesn’t mean recovery, especially when there are significant barriers to travel remaining and depressed consumer confidence. Specifically, TIAO will continue to work with TIAC to push for national solutions to the appalling examples of price gouging in the commercial insurance market and for further debt forgiveness for those who have taken out CEBA, RRRF and HASCAP loans.  

    However, there were a series of welcome announcements that TIAO strongly supports and that have been key advocacy asks over the past several years in collaboration with industry partners. One of the key announcements, actually announced before the budget was released, were key changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). These changes will allow businesses in accommodation and food services to fill a larger proportion of essential positions with temporary foreign workers and will open up the opportunity for more tourism and hospitality businesses to fill persistently vacant low-wage positions through the TFWP—key asks that TIAO has been pushing for.  

    The federal government also confirmed its intention to develop a new post-pandemic Federal Tourism Growth Strategy focused on the labour crisis and destination development. Other announcements in the budget included financial support for Indigenous tourism, a tax incentive for small businesses, defunding border closure operations, further consultations on reducing credit card process fees and measures to address the housing crisis. TIAO will of course share any opportunities for stakeholders to take part in any of the proposed new consultations and will ensure the voice of the tourism industry in Ontario is heard. Everyone at TIAO would like to thank the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses and TIAC for all their hard work in fighting for our industry.  

    As COVID-19 relief winds down, TIAO will continue working to ensure the stability of long-term tourism funds: tools like the Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) will become increasingly important to financing the tourism marketing that is critical to attracting visitors back to local Ontario destinations. In the next weeks, TIAO and our tourism delegation will meet with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to discuss challenges with MAT implementation and solutions to improve the current MAT framework so that it can best support local tourism economies. 

    Finally, this week the TIAO DEI working group held its latest webinar as part of the Building Inclusive Tourism: Monthly Webinar Series entitled ‘Best Practices of Integrating DEI Principles at the DMO Level’. Thank you to all of those that attended the session and to our excellent speakers, moderator and curators of the session. Please visit our website here to learn of future sessions and access past sessions. 

    Thank you for taking the time to read our latest TIAO newsletter. As ever, if you have any questions or queries, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.

     

    Christopher Bloore,
    President & CEO

    Dr. Jessica Ng
    Director, Policy & Gov't Affairs

  • 31 Mar 2022 by Chris Bloore

    This week the provincial government announced its plan for ‘Ontario to Stay Open’ if there is a regression in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan, introduced by Prabmeet Sarkaria, President of the Treasury Board, is a welcome step. We need Ontario’s healthcare system and supply chains to be robust in facing down any new variants and have the capacity to avoid future lock-downs.  TIAO and many of our partners have been calling for this sort of plan for some time and we welcome its introduction. However, it is important that two years into this pandemic, we must provide clarity and certainty on economic support for businesses if the worst is to happen. We need a plan to develop and increase our healthcare capacity and an efficient roll out of economic support for businesses if they’re asked to close again. I’m hopeful that all parties, as part of their election platforms, will come to a consensus view that both are essential for keeping our economy moving. 

    This morning, applicants to the Ontario Tourism Recovery Program (OTRP) started to receive their letters from the provincial government regarding their application status. After delays in the roll out of the program, we’re delighted to hear members confirm they have received decisions on their applications. TIAO thanks Minister Lisa MacLeod for her steadfast commitment to delivering this program and, as evidenced by it being oversubscribed, this funding is desperately needed. However, in a competitive application process such as the OTRP, we know there will be those who are left disappointed. If you feel your application has been incorrectly adjudicated, please contact the team and we would be happy to assist you. 

    The Federal Government has now confirmed that the Federal Budget will be delivered on April 7. I would like to thank all of you for your support in our lobbying campaign in support of TIAC and the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses for increased and extended support for the hardest hit sectors such as the tourism industry. You can read the template copy of the letter we sent to every Ontario MP here

    The Ontario provincial election is fast approaching and gives us the opportunity to once again make the case for the vital role that tourism will play in the economic recovery of our province. Last weekend the Ontario Liberal Party laid out a series of its economic priorities and pledges if it was to form the next government. Included in those pledges was a plan to ‘suspend corporate income tax for small businesses most impacted by COVID-19 for 2022 and 2023 – with relief scaled to losses in revenues and eliminated entirely for businesses that lost more than 50% of revenues as a result of the pandemic’.  

    It is pleasing to see that there is now an active conversation ongoing and acknowledgement that for some businesses, such as in tourism, our recovery will not be immediate. We look forward to reading more details on this policy and look forward to reading about the other political parties' plans to support our long-term recovery with prolonged economic supports that recognize the challenges we face on the front-line where obstacles to travel and poor consumer confidence continue to suppress demand and revenues. 

    Finally, this is a bittersweet day for the TIAO team as it is the last day of work for our Communications Coordinator, Chris Albrecht. Chris joined the TIAO team permanently after a very successful internship in 2021 having recently completing her studies in the 2-year Tourism – Marketing and Program Development program offered by Georgian College. Chris joined TIAO with more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry across Canada, as Chris chose to transition to a new career in the tourism industry combining her passion for customer service with her love for tourism and travel.  

    Chris has been an integral member of the TIAO team, often responsible for churning out complex analysis of government policy on our social media channels and website just moments after it was released. Chris has revolutionized our website, curated our weekly newsletter and has been a constant source of support for stakeholders at all hours.  We will miss you Chris - not just because of your dedication and commitment to your work, but for everything you brought to our team. We’re thrilled that you’ve earned this incredible opportunity to do your dream job and travel the world!  

    Thank you for taking the time to read this update. As ever, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

     

     



    Christopher Bloore, President & CEO, TIAO

  • 18 Mar 2022 by Chris Bloore

    For the past two years, it’s felt like Groundhog Day for many of us working in the tourism industry. Two years of uncertainty, trying to decipher the latest government regulations, battling rising costs, filling in grant and loan applications, suffering revenue losses and having to fight for economic support.

    Now, two years after we entered this pandemic, we are starting to see a clear path to a brighter tomorrow. The removal of capacity limits and mandatory POI requirements, the imminent end of the mask mandate and now with the removal of testing for vaccinated travellers at the border, there is a sense of momentum as barriers to travel are steadily being removed. But, despite the battleground starting to change in our favour, the new set of challenges we face are as equally challenging and as important.

    You’ve heard us say repeatedly that reopening doesn’t mean recovery and that continues to be our mantra despite the recent positive news. TIAO’s own research, that we have shared with all levels of government, demonstrate that there are significant economic, consumer confidence, labour and logistical challenges that will mean our return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity could take several years to return. Therefore, this week, we wrote to you to ask you to support our work with the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses as we seek to ensure Federal Government support programs continue to reflect the reality on the frontline of the tourism industry and not our projected recovery which could take years to realize.

    TIAO has written to all 121 federal Members of Parliament that represent an Ontario riding to ask them to extend and adjust the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program – including extending the program to September, maintaining full wage and rent subsidy rates, adjusting seasonal eligibility, and lowering the revenue loss threshold. We’ve also called on the Federal Government to invest resources into a dedicated tourism and hospitality labour strategy so that our operators have the workforce required to ramp up capacity. If you haven’t read our letter, you can do so here and if you want to send your own prepopulated letter to your local MP supporting our recommendations, you can do so by clicking here.

    Our third request in the letter was a call for the removal of testing at the border - a significant barrier to travel – and that was actually confirmed by the federal government today. Last night I appeared on CP24 to react to the speculation that testing at the border was set to end on April 1.  You can watch my interview by clicking here, but my main message focused on welcoming the move, but also a sober assessment that this will not mean that the tourism industry will enjoy an immediate recovery. We still need a plan to welcome back unvaccinated travellers, and we need sustained messaging from government that Canada is a safe place to visit.

    I was pleased to join Minister Lisa MacLeod and Mayor Jim Diodati in Niagara Falls last week to promote the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit. It was hugely encouraging to see the extensive media coverage of the event, with a clear message that it is time to travel in Ontario.

    Last week I was thrilled to attend an in-person conference as I joined colleagues in London at the Southern Ontario Tourism Conference, hosted by Ontario’s Southwest and Hamilton Halton Brant Regional Tourism Association (HHBRTA) regional tourism organizations. Congratulations to Executive Directors Maria Fortunato and Joanne Wolnik and their teams for organizing an excellent couple of days of keynote speakers, informative sessions and an inspiring awards ceremony which I was honoured to host. I’m so excited to be adding new dates to my diary every day for events across the province and meeting so many of you in-person.

    Unfortunately, we continue to be inundated with requests for support regarding access to government programs. We continue to challenge incorrect decisions or adjudications on a daily basis. Of course, the final decision rests with the purveyor of the programs, however, we continue to help some members overturn incorrect decisions. Please email our Director of Policy and Government Affairs, Dr. Jessica Ng, with any ongoing problems you might have at jng@tiaontario.ca.

    Finally, we’re in the design stage of our micro-website for the Ontario Provincial Election. Our intention is to educate those running for public office on the challenges facing the tourism industry and our important role in the economic recovery of the province. In the coming days you will receive an invitation to take part in our pre-election survey, so that we can gather your viewpoints on what you want prospective Members of the Provincial Parliament and elected/reelected Ministers to do to best assist the tourism industry. We continue to meet with prospective MPP’s and political parties on a rolling basis, most recently meeting the Ontario Liberal Party Rural Policy Committee.

    Thank you for taking the time to open the TIAO newsletter and please remember to contact us on the ways listed if you want to speak to us about any issue.

    Best wishes,



     

     

     


    Christopher Bloore, President & CEO, TIAO

  • 10 Mar 2022 by Jessica Ng

    We've reached some important milestones in Ontario tourism over the last couple of weeks.  

    On February 28, we saw the easing of border measures, including pre-departure and on-arrival testing for fully-vaccinated travellers.  

    On March 1, Ontario lifted capacity limits and proof of vaccination requirements for all indoor public settings, but businesses will retain the right to require proof of vaccination as organizational policy.  

    Yesterday, the province outlined its plan to lift public health measures by the end of next month, with masking requirements and regulatory requirements for businesses set to end for most settings on March 21, and masking requirements removed for all remaining settings on April 27. Though masks will not be mandatory after this date, they will still be encouraged and highly recommended for those who are immunocompromised, at high risk, or who choose to still use them.  

    Over the next several weeks, we will see Ontario returning to a new normal at a level not seen in two years, since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ontarians are energized and eager to rediscover Ontario. And although our 200,000 tourism and hospitality businesses are ready to welcome them back, the sunset of Ontario’s COVID-19 public health measures is not where our advocacy ends.  

    We still have a long way to go before travel returns to normal. To get visitors back, we must remove remaining barriers to travel, including the pre-departure test requirement for fully vaccinated travellers. As we noted in our session at the Festival & Events Ontario Conference last week, the pre-departure test requirement continues to present barriers to travel, especially for visitors who cannot easily access a rapid test appointment at a pharmacy or lab within the prescribed 24-hour testing window.  

    Today, the Canadian Tourism & Travel Roundtable echoed our point in calling for the removal of the pre-departure test requirement, emphasizing that it does not permit flexibility or schedule changes, adds significant uncertainty, complicates travel, and creates financial burdens for businesses looking to send their employees into or returning to Canada. With business travel at about 30% of 2019 volumes, the federal government’s travel restrictions are continuing to deter business travellers, severely impacting the competitiveness of meeting and convention hubs like Toronto and Ottawa.  

    To ensure the recovery of Ontario’s tourism industry, we must also continue to support the survival of our tourism and hospitality operators across the province. With the slow pace of recovery, mounting debt to resolve, industry-wide hiring challenges, and limited cash flow, tourism and hospitality businesses are still struggling to survive, let alone ramp up operating capacity. With the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program (THRP) wage and rent subsidies set to be cut in half on March 13, the Coalition of the Hardest Hit Businesses called on the federal government yesterday to maintain current THRP subsidy rates, and extend the THRP. Government financial supports continue to be critical to the financial solvency of our operators—as the hardest-hit industry and the last to recover, maintaining existing government supports is crucial to ensuring that our businesses have a fair shot at recovery. 

    And to support the immediate and long-term rebuild of our industry, we need to address tourism’s systemic labour crisis, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coalition of the Hardest Hit Businesses has called on the federal government to dedicate resources to a national tourism labour strategy. At the provincial level, TIAO is additionally advocating for the province to adopt a tourism workforce strategy, one which includes career awareness marketing campaigns, the development of a tourism-focused immigration pathway, and sector-specific amendments to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to ensure that resort and hospitality businesses can have the essential workforce required to operate.  

    As Ontario prepares to reopen in full, our advocacy at TIAO continues.  

    Thank you for your continued support and patience. And of course, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send us an email at info@tiaontario.ca.  

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD, Director, Policy and Government Affairs

  • 03 Mar 2022 by Chris Bloore

    On Tuesday’s TIAO stakeholder calls we marked the lifting of capacity restrictions in Ontario. After 714 long days of restrictions, closures and uncertainty, we’re finally now in a position to look forward with confidence about what the 2022 season can bring.   

    But amongst the relief was a realization that a new set of equally demanding challenges now await us. Whilst we may have left the colour coded public health units and roadmaps to reopen behind, the consequences of the last two years will directly impact the pace and extent of our recovery as an industry. The decisions politicians and decision makers will take in the coming months will have a direct correlation with how efficient and effective our recovery is. So, as we begin to look forward, what is TIAO calling for and working towards?  

    First and foremost, we need a plan in place for a worst-case scenario - if a new strain of COVID-19 is discovered. Two years into this pandemic we have vaccines and a much better understanding of how to handle the virus. If the worst is to happen, we need a plan in place that doesn’t shut down our economy, provides immediate government relief to businesses and give our industry parity with other sectors such as retail that have been allowed to stay open throughout the crisis. 

    Secondly, despite the lifting of restrictions, reopening doesn’t mean recovery. You’re probably bored of hearing me say this. But it’s vital that we continue to reaffirm this message to governments and elected politicians at all levels. Our industry will likely be the last to recover fully, so that means extending government support programs well into 2022 and including those seasonal businesses, unincorporated businesses and sole-proprietorships that have been unable to access many support programs previously. We will continue to work with our provincial and national colleagues TIAC and the hardest-hit coalition to promote these recommendations.  

    Thirdly we need to remove the barriers to travel, starting by phasing out testing at the border and clear and concise communications from government encouraging domestic and international travel. After two years of health professionals and politicians describing the dangers of COVID-19, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that for some, returning to normal won’t come easily. Recent data released by Abacus showed that 43% of Canadians felt not comfortable at all going to a full sports stadium and 39% felt not comfortable at all getting on an airplane. These fears will require us as an industry to show flexibility to accommodate those nervous travelers, but it also requires government to show the same vigor in encouraging travel as they did in asking Canadians to stay home. In addition, we will need our destination marketing organizations to have the firepower to compete with our international competitors that are seeking to eat into our share of the market. 

    We all recognize our industry is nothing without our workforce. The last two years have meant many have lost their jobs and many have sought opportunities in different sectors. We need long-term strategies to increase the number of workers looking to the tourism industry as a future career. That means changes to our education curriculum, dispelling the myths associated with working in our industry, changes to our immigration system and providing pathways into the tourism industry for underrepresented groups. Only by addressing all of these key points can we ensure that our industry has the conducive environment to recapture the progress that was being made before March 2020 and will form the foundation of TIAO’s work in 2022. 

    Finally,  as we draw closer to the Ontario Provincial election, we’ve started to put together our plans to educate every provincial and municipal candidate for office about the importance of the tourism industry to our economic recovery. This week we met with Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca and used the opportunity to talk about some of the challenges we face as an industry that I listed above. TIAO is a strictly non-partisan group but we are committed to ensuring that whomever is elected Premier of the province in June, or whatever government is elected, they know exactly the type of support we need from government from Day 1. 

    TIAO continues to support members in grant applications at both the provincial and federal level. Last week we were able to confirm that a second round of emails to pre-screened applications to the Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant had been sent. But we continue to push for more answers for those businesses that are left in the dark on their applications. We are committed to ensuring that all monies allocated for our industry reach their intended targets. We can’t scrimp on our recovery, for every dollar that we invest we know the return in jobs and economic activity is significant. 

    Thank you for taking the time to read this update and please feel free to email me with any questions or comments.

    Christopher Bloore, President & CEO, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 17 Feb 2022 by Chris Bloore

     

    February 17 is an important milestone for us all as we take a step closer to the end of government restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I know we’ve all said it before, only to be disappointed, but it does start to feel like we’re inching closer to normality. Of course, if this is the end of restrictions, new challenges await us in combating low consumer confidence, existing barriers to travel, challenges on rehiring and ensuring government support remain in place for some time to come. But I am hopeful that the planned relaxation of most restrictions on March 1 is the start of our comeback story. As an industry we have played our part in fighting COVID-19, made huge sacrifices, and borne the brunt of restrictions on freedom of movement and capacities. Yet when we have been able to open, we’ve operated at the highest level of health and safety protocols, as reflected in the health records on transmission that show our industry has been a leader in restricting transmission. If this is the beginning of the end of restrictions, then our industry, you, deserve the plaudits for your resilience, innovation and dedication to protecting our staff and our patrons.  

    In this update I wanted to share with you some of our advocacy efforts on behalf of the industry from the past seven days. Of course, this is just a snapshot of our work, so please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions on other topics that aren't covered.  

    Encouraging Ontarians and international visitors to travel again is one of the key challenges we face in 2022. That’s why it was pleasing news to see that the Federal Government announced a series of measures to make it easier to travel, including the removal of the need for fully vaccinated visitors to provide a pre-arrival PCR test amongst other measures. A measure that TIAO has been calling for in collaboration with your national colleagues. However, despite this good news. We need to continue to push to remove all testing requirements to be removed entirely for fully vaccinated visitors in the short-term and then when appropriate, for unvaccinated visitors, to truly make travel a seamless experience again. You can read the announcement and full list of measures further on in this newsletter.  

    This week TIAO has played its role in supporting our national counterparts TIAC as part of TIAC’s Hill Days lobby of Parliament Hill.  I was honoured to be part of the delegation and gave an Ontario perspective to some of the key recommendations that TIAC and our delegation was putting forward to MP’s and Senators. Our delegation had three key areas of discussion, removing barriers to travel and improving the brand of travelling in Canada, supporting the hardest hit sectors with continued and amended economic supports and addressing the labour crisis in the tourism and hospitality industry. In the meetings I attended I spoke directly to the need for the extension of government economic supports from March to September, amendments to existing programs to include seasonal businesses and the need to lower the revenue loss threshold required for support from 40% to 20%.  You can read TIAC’s full set of recommendations here .  

    The response we received was positive and I was impressed at the level of knowledge and understanding of the challenges facing the tourism industry held by the MP’s and Senators we met. The aim of the lobby days is to not only educate politicians but also build cross party support for measures to support the tourism industry. I am confident that we did that and want to thank Beth Potter and the TIAC team for their organization of the lobby days and their tireless work on behalf of us all. 

    TIAO is a non-partisan group, but much like in our attendances at ROMA and AMO Conferences or at our Tourism Day at Queen’s Park Event. We seek to speak to every elected official and put forward the case for investing in and supporting the tourism industry and offering strategies and proposed programs necessary to support tourism businesses moving forward. As we approach the Ontario Provincial Election, current MPP’s, candidates and political parties have started to approach us for our thoughts on what is the best way to support the tourism industry.  In recent days TIAO met with the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) candidates and current MPP’s to discuss the challenges tourism businesses are facing and what they need to make a full economic recovery. TIAO also met with MPP Mike Mantha, the NDP critic for Tourism and Northern Development, where we advocated for a tourism workforce strategy and how to best support our tourism operators throughout the province. 

    Finally, this month, TIAO met with MP Michelle Ferreri. MP Ferreri, the Federal Conservative Critic for Tourism and MP for the Ontario riding of Peterborough-Kawartha, reached out to TIAO to discuss key challenges facing the province's tourism industry and how to address them at the federal level.  TIAO thanks the Ontario Liberal Party, the Ontario NDP and MPP Mantha, and MP Ferreri for taking the time to meet with us. TIAO will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of strategies which promote the recovery of our industry and the sustainability of Ontario’s tourism industry beyond the pandemic. 

    Thank you to those of you that have attended one or both of our ‘Building Inclusive Tourism Webinar Series’ events in January and February. If you’ve not attended one of our lunchtime sessions and want to know more about the series, then please visit our website here . Our next session in on March 9 and entitled ‘LGBT+ Overview and Case Study’ with guest speakers Loren Christie (Tourism/Hospitality Expert), TJ Jones (Founding Consultant, Full Picture Management) and Allyson Tonelli (Director of Sales, Tourism Kingston). Sign up for this complimentary session by clicking here

    Finally, we know that some members are still having difficulty in getting updates on applications to provincial and federal government programs. We are working hard to chase down answers and updates on individual cases. If you have a concern about an application, please don’t hesitate to contact us at feedback@tiaontario.ca .  

    Thank you for taking the time to read our blog and for your ongoing support of TIAO.  

     

    Christopher Bloore, President & CEO, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

     

  • 04 Feb 2022 by Chris Bloore

    Following on from Jessica’s comprehensive report on our activities at ROMA last week, TIAO continues to progress key files to support the tourism industry. This is only a snapshot of the work we’re currently doing, so if you have a question about TIAO’s work or would like to speak to us regarding a specific issue please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing us at info@tiaontario.ca 

    In good news the provincial government has clarified concerns over Interntional visitors accessing venues in Ontario that require a QR code. International visitors will be required to present their own countries vaccine receipt and international passport to gain access to premises requiring a QR code. If an international visitor is set for an extended visit, they can present their proof of vaccine receipts to their local public health unit for verification and instructions on how to obtain an Ontario QR code version of the vaccine certificate. Guidance for businesses on how to review international visitors' documentation can be viewed here

    Thanks to feedback from TIAO members and stakeholders, TIAO put forward our own comprehensive submission to the Ontario government's pre-budget consultation and to the Standing Committee for Finance and Economic Affairs. Our focus remains clear, to lobby for increased economic support for the tourism industry, to increase eligibility criteria for current programs, to work towards strategies that will address our labour shortage and to reopen our businesses as soon as possible, amongst many other recommendations on extending rate relief, deferring permit costs and simplifying regulations. In past consultations, several of TIAO’s recommendations have been reflected in legislation. You can read TIAO’s full submission by clicking here. If you would like to make your own submission to the government's pre-budget consultation you have until February 11 and can do so by clicking here.   

    We continue to advocate to the Federal government for the necessity of debt relief, specifically those businesses that have taken on CEBA and RRRF loans. We know that the economic legacy of the pandemic will be widespread and severe and thus TIAO continues to push for an increase in the forgivable portions of loans and increase timescales for businesses to pay back loans. Thank you to the hundreds of TIAO members who have already sent their own letters to their MP’s already, but if you would like to join the campaign by sending your own letter, please visit our website to download a template letter.  

    In the coming days we will be meeting with Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca and Conservative Federal Critic for Tourism Michelle Ferreri MP to discuss the challenges facing the tourism industry. TIAO continues to pursue every avenue to get the voice of the tourism industry heard with decision makers as we pursue cross party solutions to support our industry. 

    Finally, there is still time to register for the second webinar in TIAO's Building Inclusive Tourism series on February 16.  The second lunch and learn session entitled ‘Better Business Discovery Process’ moderated by Maxine Gundermann, Market Sales Manager, Eastern Ontario, Celebrity Cruises, Inc, will provide the steps to conduct a discovery within your own operations and businesses to identify current gaps. You will gain insights through hearing about other’s experiences in the marketplace as they share best practice stories and examples of how adjusting your business to be more inclusive lead to better business success. Maxine will be joined by Niyoka McIntosh - Co-founder of Unpack Consulting; Wellness Vacation Specialist and owner of Vacation Your Way, Shalene Dudley, CTA, WPICC, PMP - Lead Travel Concierge at Latitude Concierge Travels, Ltd and Maria Ines - Director of Agent Experience & Loyalty, Independent by Flight Centre.  

    To secure your place, simply click here to register and please do share details of the session with colleagues and stakeholders. 

     

     

    Christopher Bloore, President & CEO, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 27 Jan 2022 by Jessica Ng

    As we approach the end of January, advocacy at TIAO has had a non-stop first month of 2022: 

    Since before the holidays, we were aware that the province’s requirement to use the vaccine certificate with QR code in settings where proof of vaccination is required would pose a serious problem for international visitors without a QR code and other groups (such as Indigenous patrons) facing access barriers to the vaccine certificate. For the past 4 weeks, we have been pressing the Ministry of Health for a solution. As indoor settings are set to reopen on January 31st, we are expecting an announcement from the government tomorrow with guidance on QR codes for international visitors. We are pleased that a solution is about to be announced. 

    As we approach the first phase of reopening in Ontario, we also await the consolidated public health regulations. With a month-long closure of indoor settings in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, business revenues have suffered, having lost the prime revenue-generating period of the holiday season. It is time for our tourism and hospitality businesses to resume their recovery.  

    This week, we brought TIAO's advocacy directly to rural municipalities and the province’s Cabinet ministers and staff at the 2022 ROMA (Rural Ontario Municipal Association) conference. With our tourism delegation—consisting of NOTO, Destination Northern Ontario, ITO, SEO, Resorts of Ontario, RTO9, Kingston Accommodation Partners, Blue Mountain Village Association, and the Ontario Snow Resorts Association—we met with 15 ministries and the Green Party of Ontario.  

    In every meeting, our focus was the recovery of rural tourism businesses and the need for continued government support. With the data you provided us in our ongoing survey on the challenges facing tourism businesses in 2022, we conveyed the precarious situation facing Ontario’s 200,000 tourism businesses. More than half of the province’s tourism businesses reported decreased bookings and rising cancellations since the Omicron variant was first detected in November. Since the start of the pandemic, 7 in 10 businesses have taken on up to $500,000 in debt to remain afloat and anticipate that it will take at least 2 years to resolve. Moreover, half of our members reported a pessimistic outlook for the recovery of their business and the industry as a whole. As we close in on two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and face a prolonged recovery due to the spread of Omicron, the support of all ministries is more important than ever in our rebuild. With your help, we made a strong case for our policy asks.  

    In our meeting with the Ministry of Finance, we advocated for additional grant-based funding for tourism businesses that have faced barriers in accessing provincial and federal COVID-19 relief due to eligibility criteria restrictions. These include sole proprietors, privately-owned commercial hotel units, and independent travel agents. We continued to advocate for immediate action on high commercial insurance rates. With 7 in 10 tourism businesses facing mounting debt, we again pushed for the Ministry to work with federal counterparts to take action by providing relief on CEBA and RRRF loans.  

    In our meeting with the Hon. Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training, and Skills Development, we pushed for strategies to ensure that rural tourism destinations have the workforce required to recover and thrive in Ontario. We pushed for ministerial support for TIAO’s own Tourism Workforce Recovery and Investment Strategy—a multi-pronged, cross-ministerial strategy consisting of a marketing campaign promoting tourism as an employment destination, a tourism-focused immigration pathway, and short-term and long-term strategies to address labour and skills gaps in regional tourism economies. 

    In our meeting with the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, we emphasized the need for targeted financial supports for resource-based tourism businesses and the waiver of 2022 crown resource fees. In our discussions with the Hon. Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, the Hon. Kinga Surma, Minister of Infrastructure, and MPP Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario, we underscored the need for timely upgrades in transportation, infrastructure, and affordable housing in rural destinations to support visitor movement and long-term workforce recruitment and retention.  

    And in our meeting with the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, we brought forward proposals to help bring business events back to Ontario and promote the domestic visitor market. These include developing a fund for hybrid events and making the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit annual. 

    But that’s not all we did at ROMA! In addition to pushing for progress on existing files, getting our foot in the door on others, and building the basis for future discussions with government, we met with 60 municipal councillors, mayors, and economic development officers from rural and Northern municipalities. During these municipal meetings at TIAO’s booth exhibit, we got a frontline look at the challenges facing rural municipalities and how these might impact the local growth and sustainability of tourism businesses. Similar to previous years, infrastructure, connectivity, and transportation—all critical issues for rural regions—were raised across visits to our booth. But a new issue came up repeatedly and throughout the province: affordable housing and homelessness.  

    In our booth visits and in every meeting at ROMA, we emphasized the importance of access to COVID-19 testing for workforce capacity. Joining calls by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, TIAC, Air Canada, and Toronto Pearson, we recommended that on-arrival PCR testing be redeployed from airports to local communities. This would free up 8,000 tests per day from Toronto Pearson alone at a time when communities across the province are experiencing scarce COVID-19 testing resources, impacting vulnerable groups, workers, and the staff capacity of local tourism and hospitality operators. With many tourism businesses unable to reopen at full capacity due to staff shortages, access to testing is critical to the ability of businesses to sustain and ramp up workforce capacity while protecting the health and safety of all Canadians. This week, we sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau calling for the redeployment of on-arrival testing at Canadian airports.  

    Finally, building upon our meetings at ROMA, we also had the opportunity this week to submit consultative feedback for the province’s 2022 Budget. In our pre-budget consultation submission, we gathered our key policy asks presented at ROMA, totalling 22 recommendations, which we believe are necessary to support the immediate and long-term recovery of our industry.  

    TIAO’s advocacy is off to a blazing start in 2022. Over the next weeks and months, we will build upon our discussions had and connections made at ROMA to advance the recovery and rebuild of our industry. Stay tuned for updates on our progress.  

     

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD, Director, Policy and Government Affairs, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario