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  • 30 May 2024 by Andrew Siegwart

    Municipalities in Ontario are on the front lines dealing with pressing community and economic issues like attainable housing, workforce development, transportation access, community safety, destination management, raising revenues from a limited number of tools such as accommodation taxes, and more.

    This is why TIAO’s advocacy team is preparing now to represent the industry’s needs at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference taking place on August 18-24, 2024 in Ottawa.  

    TIAO will bring together a powerhouse delegation of regional and sectoral tourism industry advocates as well as economic development leaders to make sure the voice of tourism is heard. During the event, the tourism delegation will meet with more than a dozen Ontario Ministers and their teams to advocate for: investments in local market recovery and growth, enabling infrastructure, healthy labour markets, and collaborative, data-driven decision making!

    Please reach out to me directly at asiegwart@tiaontario.ca with any issues you feel need to be brought forward during this year’s AMO Conference.

    We still have room for two more Members to join TIAO’s AMO delegation. If interested, please reach out to Carol Greenwood at cgreenwood@tiaontario.ca.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew Siegwart

    President & CEO
    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 29 May 2024 by Andrew Siegwart

    Summer 2024 is fast approaching, and TIAO is excited to host the Tourism Opportunities Forum in partnership with Globe and Mail and sponsored by EpiQ AV!

    This event is designed to help our members grow their businesses this season by expanding markets and building strong teams.

    Morning Workforce Sessions:

    • Get the latest data, insights, and predictions on the tourism labour market and learn how to attract and retain top talent with Adam Morrison, President & CEO of OTEC.
    • Hear from a panel of operators sharing workplace best practices in action, providing you with valuable strategies to implement in your own business.

    Afternoon Market Development Sessions:

    • Discover Destination Ontario's strategic plan to boost tourism economic performance this year. Vincenza Ronaldi, President & CEO of Destination Ontario, will offer insights on market trends, data-driven strategies, and collaboration opportunities.
    • Learn how destination marketing is evolving with technologies like Artificial Intelligence. Jessica Robinson, Content Manager at Globe Content Studio, will explore digital strategies to grow your market share within Canada.

    Event Details:

    • Date: Monday, June 3
    • Time: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    • Location: The Globe and Mail Centre, Toronto
     

    Space is limited, so sign up ASAP to join your TIAO community for a day filled with valuable insights and collaboration opportunities.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew Siegwart

    President & CEO
    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 16 May 2024 by Jessica Ng

    It’s been another busy week at TIAO as we head into the Victoria Day long weekend. This past week:  

    • TIAO was at the Ontario Snow Resorts Association (OSRA)’s 60th AGM Conference and Trade Show, with our own Carol Greenwood (VP, Operations & Partnerships) leading a tourism panel featuring Destination Northern Ontario, RTO7, RTO4, and Discover Muskoka.
    • Andrew Siegwart was in Edmonton this week attending Rendez-vous Canada (RVC), the largest tourism trade show in the country.
    • And TIAO is continuing to work with Kingston partners, affected operators, government partners, and elected officials on the LaSalle Causeway closure, which is resulting in significant disruptions and revenue losses for Kingston’s summer tourism season. Read more below for the latest updates and for a joint letter from opposition critics in support of TIAO and industry advocacy.

     

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

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD  

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs
    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 02 May 2024 by Andrew Siegwart

    As the industry gears up for the critical peak season ahead, TIAO has been laser-focused on two key areas crucial for a robust 2024 and ongoing economic rebound: workforce development and transportation infrastructure.  

    Recently, the tourism sector faced significant setbacks with reductions in Skills Development Fund (SDF) projects, impacting training and recruitment efforts province-wide.  We swiftly collaborated with Tourism SkillsNet Ontario (TSNO) partners to evaluate the immediate and long-term effects, given federal policy changes affecting international students and workers.  Our joint letter to Hon. David Piccini, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development, urges urgent action to support tourism workforce and business capacity.  Read our letter here.

    In addition, we hosted an open meeting to gather Member feedback on critical transportation services. Key findings reveal substantial gaps hindering growth, including reduced air service, underutilized commuter services, labor shortages, and integration challenges among transportation modes. TIAO will leverage this input to drive targeted advocacy efforts for improved transportation connectivity across Ontario. Meanwhile, we continue to advocate for enhanced services, like the recently announced early Via Rail service to Kingston.         

    And finally, we look forward to welcoming Members and partners to next week’s IMPACT conference (May 6&7, 2024).  There is still time to register, and I promise you it will be worth your investment and time.  

    Here are the Top-5 reasons why you need to be there: 

    1. The program is immersive, experiential, and delegates will be guided by Indigenous Elders, teachings, and operators.  
    1. Tourism operator case studies will be shared that showcase sustainability innovation while meeting consumer needs and trends.  
    1. Compelling tourism brands, e.g., The Four Seasons, Via Rail, Expedia, UNESCO will share leading insights.  
    1. Workforce planning & attainable housing creativity will take centre stage.  
    1. We will welcome Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff, new Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport to his first TIAO Community event for an intimate fireside chat about rural economic development and sustainability. 

     

    Thank you to all TIAO Members and partners for your continued support, engagement and guidance.  

     

    Sincerely, 

    Andrew Siegwart

    President & CEO
    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 18 Apr 2024 by Jessica Ng

     

    In this week’s TIAO highlights:

    • The Federal Budget dropped this week, with major housing investments and notable investments in a new VIA Rail fleet, high-frequency rail, and national parks. The federal government is also proposing a new Carbon Rebate for Small Businesses to return fuel charge proceeds. In case you missed it, here’s our budget breakdown.

    Finally, as a follow-up to our call with DMOs earlier this week, TIAO is conducting a survey to:

    • Understand in greater detail the MAT challenges being experienced in Ontario destinations and to obtain feedback on potential solutions; and
    • understand challenges and priorities with respect to local and regional market and destination development.  

    If you are a DMO or provide MAT services to destinations, please complete the survey here.  

     

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

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD  

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs

    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 11 Apr 2024 by Jessica Ng

    With May fast approaching, we are counting down the weeks until TIAO’s IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism regional conference, taking place May 5-7 at Centennial College in Scarborough!  

    If you’re still wondering if or why you should attend, here is your reason: The future of travel and tourism is sustainable.  

    Sustainable practice is where our industry is headed or expanding into—whether it be reducing our carbon footprint, implementing climate change mitigation, advocating for mass transit infrastructure improvements, or providing attainable housing solutions that enable people to live where they work.  

    As for travellers and our future workforce, they’re already there. Consumers are shifting their spending toward sustainable products, with 76% of global travellers wanting to travel sustainably, and Gen Z and Millennials—who will soon have most of the purchasing power and dominate the labour market—favouring sustainable products and expecting sustainable workplace practices like work-life balance and flexibility.  

    Preparing your business or organization for the future of travel and tourism necessitates engaging more closely with sustainability, and where better to build or sharpen your toolkit than TIAO’s IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism – ONTARIO: A Regional Event? Reserve your spot here before tickets sell out.  

    And in case you missed it:  

    • Earlier this week, several members of the TIAO team attended the RTO6 Tourism Symposium, with Leni Brem (Project Manager, Tourism Workforce Sustainability Program) and Mark Capistrano (Workforce Development Coordinator) leading a panel on Rethinking Recruitment in a Competitive Labour Market.  

    • TIAO and OTEC released a joint statement on the inclusion of hospitality as a priority program area for Ontario’s allocation of international study permit applications. Read our press release here.  

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

       

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD   

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs 

  • 05 Apr 2024 by Andrew Siegwart

    Kudos to the Resorts of Ontario team for a successful Season Summit at Hockley Valley Resort this week! In today's collaborative landscape, industry conferences are key drivers of innovation, partnership, and economic growth. I'm grateful for the opportunity to connect with so many stakeholders and future tourism leaders and to receive valuable feedback on our advocacy work. Please see below for TIAO's analysis of the recent Ontario budget and insights from our members on changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program.

     

    Thank you for your continued support. And as always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to send me an email at asiegwart@tiaontario.ca.

    Andrew Siegwart
    President & CEO

    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 29 Mar 2024 by Jessica Ng

    This week, the provincial government released its 2024 Budget, entitled Building a Better Ontario. In case you missed it, the highlights include an additional $100 million investment in the Skills Development Fund, new infrastructure investments, and a proposal to eliminate the 6.1% tax at on-site winery retail. For more top-level highlights, see our summary here, and be sure to look out for TIAO’s deep dive analysis next week.  

     

    Yesterday, in response to the federal government’s cap on international students, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities announced that hospitality will be one of the priority program areas for Ontario’s allocation of international study permit applications. This was a key TIAO ask, which we raised with Colleges and Universities Minister Jill Dunlop immediately after the international student cap was announced in January. We thank Minister Dunlop for her support of Ontario’s tourism and hospitality sectors, and we look forward to working toward further measures to support our postsecondary partners. 

     

    In other news, on the heels of last week’s announcement on changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, TIAO continues to seek member feedback to gauge the impact of these changes on tourism and hospitality sectors that rely on temporary foreign workers to meet employment demand. Preliminary results of our survey show concern around the change in Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) validity from 12 months to 6 months, and concern with capacity to fulfill the new requirement for businesses to explore every option before applying for an LMIA (including recruiting asylum seekers with valid work permits in Canada). If you haven’t already, you can complete our short survey here. The survey closes tomorrow, Friday March 29.  

     

    Finally, Premier Doug Ford announced changes today to his team of parliamentary assistants. We offer our best wishes to outgoing Tourism, Culture and Sport PAs Laura Smith and Dave Smith for their new roles in the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and the Associate Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, respectively. And we offer a very warm welcome to incoming Tourism, Culture and Sport PA Sam Oosterhoff! TIAO has met PA Oosterhoff on many occasions in his former roles at the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Red Tape Reduction. A strong supporter of tourism, we look forward to working with him alongside Minister Lumsden.  

     

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

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD   

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs

    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 21 Mar 2024 by Jessica Ng

    Over the past few weeks, TIAO and our sector partners have met with several ministries to advance progress on a number of ongoing files, including: craft cider and craft beer tax reform; marketing and product development dollars for Northern destinations located on Crown land or beyond municipal boundaries; marketing support for Indigenous tourism; and local and regional transportation challenges.  

     

    On the transportation file, we’ve been hearing quite a bit from TIAO members about worsening conditions affecting local and regional connectivity. With air and passenger rail service reductions, infrastructure deficits, road safety concerns, and declining connectivity, transportation is fast-emerging as one of TIAO’s top-line critical issues this year. TIAO is planning a series of more targeted advocacy initiatives to highlight the urgency of the state of transportation in Ontario and the impact on visitor economies across the province, and to elevate our solutions-based asks. 

     

    To ensure that we have the full picture to work from, we are seeking feedback from members on:  

    • The types of local and regional transportation challenges being experienced   

    • Any examples/anecdotes/data that can be shared to illustrate the severity of the above issues 

    • Any specific provincial or federal policies (or gaps) that are contributing factors to the above  

     

    To collect this feedback, we will be hosting a virtual meeting next Monday March 25 from 2:00 - 3:00 PM.  

     

    If you are interested in attending, please RSVP and register via the following Zoom link: 

    RVSP for Advisory Call

    If you have feedback or questions that you would like to submit in advance of or in lieu of attending the meeting, please direct them to Alexander Miceli, Manager of Policy & Government Affairs at amiceli@tiaontario.ca.

     

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

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD   

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs

    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 15 Mar 2024 by Andrew Siegwart

    Exciting updates and important actions are underway at TIAO!

     

    In response to the recent changes in visa requirements for Mexican citizens, TIAO and 14 member partners have swiftly mobilized. We've penned a letter to The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, urging for immediate action. Our goal: expedited visa processing for those with pre-booked departures to Canada. By uniting our voices, we amplify our impact, pushing for timely decisions that benefit our communities. Please take a moment to review the letter and share it within your networks. Your feedback on how this affects your business is invaluable; reach out to us via email to share your thoughts: jng@tiaontario.ca.

    Read the Letter

     

    In other news, the spotlight shines on festivals and events across Ontario.  Media coverage has soared this week, highlighting both the challenges and the remarkable impact of festivals and events.  TIAO and our partners have been actively engaged in these discussions, emphasizing the vital role festivals and events play in our communities.  We've also championed the investments made by the Province through the Experience Ontario program, eagerly awaiting updates—a key priority from our pre-budget submission.

    Finally, today I had the privilege of delivering a deputation to Prince Edward County's Committee of the Whole. I shared insights and best practices on Municipal Accommodation Tax implementations, supporting our members in the County while providing valuable recommendations to local council members.  This opportunity excites me, and I'm eager to extend this support to members across the Province.  Don't hesitate to reach out—I'm here to help!

     

    Let's continue driving positive change together.

     

    Best,

    Andrew Siegwart

    President & CEO

    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 08 Mar 2024 by Andrew Siegwart

    Congratulations to Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation (SWOTC) and Hamilton Halton Brant Regional Tourism Association (HHBRTA) for a successful joint conference and Awards Gala this week in Sarnia, Ontario!

    Throughout the conference, we discussed the ongoing challenges and opportunities facing tourism in Ontario, and how TIAO and industry stakeholders across many different regions in Ontario can collaborate together for a thriving industry. It was an honour to participate, share insights, learn, make connections, and celebrate amazing tourism leaders together!

    On this upcoming International Women's Day, we celebrate and thank all of the dedicated women across Ontario's tourism industry who are pushing boundaries to make a difference, and inspiring inclusion while strengthening communities and economies. Click here to learn more about  Government of Canada’s theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2024, Invest in women: Accelerate progress.

    Andrew Siegwart

    President & CEO

    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 04 Mar 2024 by Andrew Siegwart

    TIAO has been actively responding to the recently announced international student permit cap, which aims to enhance the student experience and address housing concerns by reducing undergraduate study permits by 35% nationwide. Ontario, hosting 70% of Canada's international students, is expected to be disproportionately affected, particularly impacting its renowned post-secondary programs in tourism and hospitality, and their students who work in tourism while studying in Ontario.  A TIAO member survey highlighted concerns such as increased recruitment costs, reduced service levels for customers, and revenue losses for operators.

    TIAO has advocated for emergency funding, immigration reforms, increased promotion of high-school level hospitality programs, and funding for private-sector workforce housing development. TIAO's efforts thus far have resulted in substantial media coverage, including this CBC Radio interview.

    The Ontario Government's subsequent announcement of $1.3 billion in funding is viewed as a positive first step by TIAO; however, we continue to press for further measures to support schools, students, and industry.

    Read More

    Andrew Siegwart

    President & CEO

    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 13 Feb 2024 by Jessica Ng

    A little over two weeks ago, the federal government announced a reactionary policy to cap the number of international student permits, to be applied and weighted by international student population within individual provinces and territories. Along with this policy, the federal government announced eligibility changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program and eligibility changes for open work permits available to spouses of international students.  

     

    Given the significant representation of international students in Ontario tourism and hospitality postsecondary programs, the federal cap is expected to disproportionately impact the tourism and hospitality industry. International students and graduates are global assets to the tourism and hospitality workforce, ensuring that Ontario’s service economy can adeptly meet the needs of an increasingly global visitor market. 

     

    Since the announcement, TIAO has been engaging in rapid data collection to understand the anticipated tourism industry impacts of the policies, particularly the international student permit cap. According to the member survey we released, almost half of respondents reported that the federal cap on international student permits will affect or might affect their business, with members anticipating recruitment and retention to be more expensive or resource-intensive, not being able to hire for necessary positions, understaffing, and having to scale back services or offerings.  

     

    Consultations with TIAO’s post-secondary partners revealed anticipated impacts to tourism and hospitality programs, particularly for programs where international students comprise 50% or more of student enrolment – significantly higher than the University (17.6%) and College (22%) enrolment average in Canada during 2021-2022. With Ontario accounting for 70% of Canada’s international higher education enrolment, food and beverage, events, and other tourism and hospitality sectors that rely heavily on these programs to meet employment demand will be particularly hard-hit.  

     

    Using this data, TIAO released a comprehensive response this week to the federal cap on international student permits. We called for immediate consultation and collaboration between tourism stakeholders, the provincial government, and the federal government in order to assess impacts and develop a response plan to protect the viability of post-secondary tourism programs, the experience and opportunities for international students, and the short- and mid-term economic performance of the tourism industry.  

     

    We have called for urgent, collaborative solutions to: 

    • Enable tourism employers to competitively recruit and retain talent; 

    • Ensure that international students in-demand sectors like tourism and hospitality can access the jobs they have trained for;  

    • Build a stronger domestic pool of talent; and 

    • Ensure that the supply of attainable housing keeps up with the demand of Ontario’s population. 

     

    To read our press release and see our full list of recommendations, click here.  

     

    Thank you to members who participated in the survey; RTOs, DMOs, and sector associations for amplifying the survey to tourism operators; and many thanks to our postsecondary partners who shared their insights with us.  

     

    International students are a vital contributor to the province’s tourism industry. TIAO will continue to monitor the impacts of the federal cap and will be working with industry, provincial, and federal counterparts on immediate and longer-range solutions. 

     

    And in case you missed it, TIAO recently submitted its 2024 pre-budget submission, which you can find here. On top of a range of economic, labour, and infrastructure recommendations, we have called on the Province to work with tourism stakeholders to develop an Ontario tourism growth strategy – one that outlines clear goals to maximize the economic impact of our industry, solidifies our domestically and globally competitive position as a visitor destination, and contributes to sustainable tourism management and growth.  

     

    Join us on February 21st at 1pm (EDT) for a fireside chat with me and President & CEO Andrew Siegwart as we do a deep dive into our recommendations. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and share their experiences. Register here for this upcoming Forward Motion session.  

     

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

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD  

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs

    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 25 Jan 2024 by Andrew Siegwart

    The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), along with participating member organizations from across the province, convened with 15 Ministers, Parliamentary Assistants, and party leaders, including Minister Lumsden, at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference this week. The nature and timing of this event provided a robust platform for us to advocate key economic, labor, and infrastructure priorities necessary to mitigate risks and stimulate growth in the tourism industry for 2024. 

    In these meetings, TIAO approached the discussions by presenting focused solutions, showcasing our members' innovative problem-solving approaches, and seeking collaboration across multiple ministries to develop a new strategy for growing Ontario's tourism economy. We extend our gratitude to Minister Lumsden and his incredible team for their support and recommendations. 

    For more details on our key recommendations, please visit: https://silkstart.s3.amazonaws.com/db3cbfdc-a0ac-42f9-a44b-89f2008d8c9c.pdf 

    We express our appreciation to Camping in Ontario, Culinary Tourism Alliance, Destination Northern Ontario, Indigenous Tourism Ontario, Kingston Accommodation Partners, Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association, and OTEC for their support to the TIAO team and their efforts on behalf of all members. (Insert a nice photo from our meetings with Minister Lumsden). 

    The federal government has recently imposed a two-year cap on international student permit applications, anticipating around 360,000 approved study permits, reflecting a 35% decrease from 2023. Individual provincial and territorial caps, weighted by population, have been established, leading to more significant decreases in provinces like Ontario, which have historically welcomed a larger share of international students. 

    This decision, accompanied by several additional changes, will have substantial impacts on students, post-secondary schools, the labor market, and employers. We are actively engaging with member businesses and post-secondary schools across Ontario to assess the impact of these policy changes and to formulate meaningful and focused recommendations. 

    Please inform us of how your business will be affected by the international student permit cap by: 

     

    If you wish to learn more about the federal cap, please click here.

    Lastly, thank you to the TIAO team and membership for the warm welcome as I assume this exciting new role.  I eagerly anticipate connecting with members in the weeks and months to come, and I look forward to a strong 2024! 

     

    Sincerely, 

     

    Andrew Siegwart 

  • 18 Jan 2024 by Jessica Ng

    Today, January 18th, is the deadline for tourism businesses with CEBA or RRRF loans to repay most of their loan in order to have up to $20,000 forgiven. After today, CEBA and RRRF loans will start to incur 5 per cent interest with the full principal amount due at the end of 2026. Operators who secure refinancing have until March 28 to repay their loan while maintaining access to the forgivable portion. As we have advocated in meetings, submissions, letters, media appearances, alongside our partners, and in our 2022 State of the Ontario Tourism Industry Report: this is not enough.  

    Businesses who have been impacted by the slow return of key markets, high interest rates, inflation, rising commercial costs, the labour crisis, and dampened consumer sentiment need more time to generate the revenue required to pay down their debts. The absence of an extension will weigh heavily on the capacity of small tourism businesses to recover sooner and to take advantage of the opportunities to grow, thrive—and generate the tax revenues that support our economy, our social services, and help pay down the provincial and national debts.  

    We are disappointed that the federal government has not heeded our calls for much-needed debt relief. But we thank our partners for advocating alongside us, including the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. We also thank Premier Doug Ford and Minister Neil Lumsden for their advocacy on our industry’s behalf right up until today’s deadline.   

    Last week, I had the opportunity to talk about the debt and labour challenges that Ontario tourism businesses are still facing, and which have been exacerbated by the unseasonably warm weather we saw over the holidays. In case you missed my media appearances, you can find them at CityTV, CTV Barrie, and NEWSTALK 1010.  

    I also had the opportunity last week to present before the provincial Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. This was a valuable opportunity for TIAO to illustrate that while we are recovering and rebuilding, the economic contribution of our industry is still not quite where it needs to be. While we have regained the domestic visitor market, international numbers remain below pre-pandemic figures and behind some of our domestic competitors. The US market, for instance, is down 14 percent from 2019 and the Chinese market is still down 79 percent. As of last summer, convention bookings at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Ottawa Convention Centre alone were down by over 40 percent compared to 2019. For many local festivals and events, attendance and revenues have not returned to 2019 levels, with ongoing challenges in obtaining the required public and private funding. Inflation and the cost-of-living crisis have dampened consumer spending. And while rates have gone up, hotel occupancy is still down by 25 percent. Moreover, seasonal businesses have borne the brunt of climate change impacts, with summer wildfires and warm winter weather affecting the length of key tourism seasons and the perception of Ontario as a consistently reliable visitor destination. 

    In the Committee hearing, TIAO called for: provincial budgetary investments to attract major events and conventions, which will inject direct visitor dollars into local, regional, and provincial economies; the implementation of many recommendations outlined in the Auditor General’s report, including strategic regional planning to take destination marketing to the next level, recalibrating existing funding opportunities, better leveraging gateway cities and our convention centres, and developing a data strategy to guide local and regional tourism planning; and, ultimately, the need for a tourism strategy in partnership with our industry and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport—a strategy which will increase economic productivity for industry and for government.  

    Finally, TIAO will be attending the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference next week. With the support of our tourism delegation and led by our incoming President & CEO, Andrew Siegwart, TIAO will be advocating for a number of economic, labour, and infrastructure asks and building support around the Cabinet table for a provincial tourism strategy.  

    Three weeks into 2024 and TIAO’s advocacy is full steam ahead. 

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

      

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD  

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs 

  • 14 Dec 2023 by Jessica Ng

    With the holidays approaching, TIAO is wrapping up another busy year for tourism advocacy:  

    2023 was the first full year where we welcomed visitors back to Ontario since 2020. Economic recovery got off to an encouraging start with visitors resuming the travel plans that they had put on hold over the last few years. Our industry responded with compelling visitor experiences, competing with domestic and global destinations for a larger share of visitor spend. The message that we put forward time and again: Rediscover Ontario.  

    But not all markets were recovering to the same degree, with the US market still slow to return to Northern Ontario and events experiencing rising operational costs. Inflation, high interest rates, debt, and supply chain disruptions stymied recovery in most markets, with the rising cost of living and the housing crisis exacerbating challenges in recruitment, retention, and consumer travel sentiment.  

    While revenues and visitor numbers are improving, our industry continues to face new and ongoing challenges on the road to rebuilding. This is the message that we delivered to elected officials along with our tourism delegation at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference, before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs at Queen’s Park, the federal Ontario Liberal caucus, the federal Conservative tourism caucus, in our meetings with ministry officials, in media engagements, in events with stakeholders across Ontario, and alongside our TIAO members in our first in-person Tourism Day at Queen’s Park since pre-pandemic.  

    With tourism operators dealing with staggering debt – and even more so in Northern Ontario – 2023 marked 2 years of TIAO debt relief advocacy. This year, we joined our partners in a coalition led by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to call on the federal government to extend the interest-free repayment deadline/deadline to qualify for partial loan forgiveness for CEBA and RRRF loans. We lobbied our case to Minister Neil Lumsden, who advocated tirelessly on our industry’s behalf to deliver on debt relief for hard-hit operators. To our dismay, the federal government extended the deadline by a mere 18 days to January 18, 2024.  

    Meanwhile, we saw the release this year of the much-anticipated Federal Tourism Growth Strategy and subsequently the rollout of the $108 million Tourism Growth Program through the Regional Development Agencies. After TIAO and industry feedback, we welcomed the earlier launch of the Experience Ontario program to help deliver Ontario festivals and events in 2024. And today, we welcomed the pivotal announcement on the Master Framework Agreement and the expansion of the sale of beer, cider, wine, and low-alcohol beverages to convenience, grocery, and big box stores—a move driven by our partners at Ontario Craft Brewers, Ontario Craft Wineries, and Wine Growers Ontario to support the economic growth and competitiveness of Ontario’s wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries and the value they bring to visitor destinations across the province. 

    It is no surprise to us that there is a symbiotic relationship between a thriving tourism sector, the success of local businesses, and the strength our economy: When Ontario destinations attract more visitors, tourism and hospitality businesses benefit through direct spending that creates a positive ripple effect for other economic sectors and for local employment; government benefits through increased tax revenue generated from visitor spending and employment income—revenue which, in turn, can be put towards critical human services, community infrastructure, and to paying down the provincial and national debts.  

    When tourism does well, so does Ontario.  As we head into 2024, this is the message that we will deliver to government. As the provincial and federal governments pursue fiscal restraint, now is the time for government to invest in our industry. Now is the time to realize even greater return on tourism investment.  

    The TIAO office closes for the holidays tomorrow but before we do, a quick note of thanks to Minister Lumsden and our partners at the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport for their ongoing support, collaboration, and shared passion for the economic and intrinsic value of tourism in Ontario. We look forward to continued collaboration in the New Year to take Ontario’s tourism industry to new heights.  

    Of course, a heartfelt thanks goes out to Chris Bloore for his outstanding leadership at TIAO. Chris has been a staunch advocate of the industry and an unwavering source of support for so many operators during the darkest hours, leading our industry from standstill to a place of recovery and now rebuilding. With Chris’s departure, a definitive chapter at TIAO has closed and we begin a new one in 2024.  

    And as always, thank you to all our TIAO members for your continued support. Your feedback is valued and helps ensure that we are always representing the needs of the industry.  

    If you have any questions or comments, feel free to send me an email at jng@tiaontario.ca.   

    On behalf of TIAO, happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year. 

    Dr. Jessica Ng

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs

    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

     

     

  • 30 Nov 2023 by Chris Bloore

    I’m not great at goodbyes, but today is my last working day at TIAO, and my final day has fallen on a Thursday to give me one more chance to write to you all and share my thoughts. I want to start with a simple thank you – thank you to those that would often write back to these remarks with your feedback, questions, concerns, or simply with a ‘keep going!’. Whether it’s been via email, our virtual town halls, or meeting in person at one of our events it’s been a pleasure to interact and learn from you all.  

    Last month in Mississauga, at the Ontario Tourism Summit, I hinted at my deep frustration at the standstill we’ve reached. We have all worked so hard to get through the pandemic – not only to survive it – but to lay the foundations of a recovery amidst the perfect storm of rising interest rates, spiraling inflation, a broken supply chain, and geopolitical uncertainty. We came together to build a roadmap to recovery and to finally realise our potential and the growth we all know could lead to new jobs and greater economic prosperity. Yet many of these ideas and practical solutions are still only ink on paper and have not been put into practice. 

    We need governments at all levels to collaborate with us as we come to a critical point in our future. As we tackle some of the most pressing challenges, we’ve faced we can redefine what the future of tourism in Ontario will look like.  Across the world ambitious governments are investing in their tourism sectors and seizing the opportunity to reap the economic, health, social, and cultural benefits that it brings. In destinations across the world there is a shared understanding that tourism is the driver of culture for visitors and locals alike – it brings people together in unforgettable experiences that engage body, mind, and soul. As we face ever more complex challenges tourism continues to be the forum where we remind ourselves and others who we are – as individuals, peoples, and nations.   

    I know that the next President and CEO of TIAO, with your support and a talented and dedicated TIAO team, will break the logjam and grasp the opportunities that are there for the taking.  I now return to the UK both with an enlarged personal family and as a permanent member of the Ontario tourism family. I will be rooting for you all from across the pond and I know that if the past four years are any indication, you will yet again blaze a trail for others to follow. 

    It’s been an honour.  

  • 28 Nov 2023 by Chris Bloore

    Despite the ongoing pressures on small businesses in the tourism sector I was disappointed – if not surprised – that the Fall Economic Statement contained no new measures to support small businesses. This is despite consensus among business and association leaders on the need for changes to the CEBA loan repayment schedules for which they have been long advocating. The government didn’t deliver on any meaningful time extensions to ensure businesses can take advantage of the forgivable portions of the loans especially when we’re living through these volatile economic times. With high interest rates and inflation combining with ever increasing costs, a labour crisis, and a disrupted supply chain this would have been the perfect time to give small businesses some more breathing room in repayments without penalties.  

    In better news the Federal Tourism Minister, the Hon. Soraya Martinez Ferrada, announced the launch of the Tourism Growth Program (TGP). With $108 million in federal funding the TGP will be delivered by Canada’s seven regional development agencies over three years, starting in 2023-24. We’ve already received several inquiries from members about the criteria of the program and we’re pleased that FedDev and FedNor will be hosting webinars shortly to answer all questions TIAO members may have.  

    Finally, as a reminder if you have not already put forward your ideas on what TIAO should include in our provincial budget consultation then please don’t hesitate to do so. Over the past three years we’ve been successful in winning economic packages and regulatory changes that helped mitigate some of the worst impacts of the pandemic. However, as we edge closer to a recovery these gains have not been secured. We need to ensure that we’re pressing governments at all levels to take the next steps to empower the tourism industry to be competitive and to reach growth targets. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please reach out to Dr. Jessica Ng at jng@tiaontario.ca or Alexander Miceli at amiceli@tiaontario.ca. 


    Chris Bloore
    President & CEO
    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 16 Nov 2023 by Alexander Micelli

    From Tuesday, November 14th to 16th, TIAO had the privilege of participating in the Northern Ontario Tourism Summit in Sault Ste Marie. Dr. Jessica Ng and Carol Greenwood delivered a presentation updating attendees on our advocacy efforts for tourism in Northern Ontario, emphasizing our key focus areas: economic recovery, labour, economic development and regulatory reform, and infrastructure. 

    During our presentation, we highlighted our objectives to extend the CEBA and RRRF repayment period, allowing for partial loan forgiveness until December 31st, 2025; the labour crisis in Northern Ontario, including the impact of Transport Canada anti-fatigue regulations on exacerbating the pilot shortage; and the need to expand provincial EV charging infrastructure in rural and remote areas. Additionally, we discussed our continued advocacy alongside our Northern partners for tourism revenue tools tailored for Northern and remote regions to amplify tourism marketing and product development in destinations located on crown land, in unorganized townships, or beyond municipal boundaries. 

    Concluding our session, we delved into upcoming trends and opportunities in the tourism sector – including opportunities to expand outdoor and nature-based tourism and agritourism – and current and upcoming programs and events at TIAO.  

    In addition, Destination Northern Ontario passed a resolution to provide their utmost support to help alleviate homelessness as well as addiction and mental health challenges across Northern Ontario. The resolution was accompanied with an acknowledgment of the economic impact of homelessness and the need to directly address it for the full recovery and future growth of the tourism sector.  

    The Northern Ontario Tourism Summit (NOTS) was a great opportunity to reconnect with our partners at NOTO and Destination Northern Ontario, meet many of our Northern tourism stakeholders, and hear the latest issues and updates in Northern Ontario tourism. We look forward to NOTS 2024!  

     

     



    Alexander Miceli 
    Manager of Policy and Government Affairs
    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 02 Nov 2023 by Jessica Ng

    Today, the Government of Ontario released its Fall Economic Statement. Some key highlights include:  

    • Proposing to extend the current gas tax and fuel tax rate cuts, keeping the rates at 9 cents per litre until June 20, 2024.  

    • Proposing to remove the provincial portion of the HST on new purpose-built rental housing through the Ontario Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) New Residential Rental Property Rebate.    

    • Providing an additional $100M to the Invest Ontario Fund to help attract more leading companies to Ontario.  

    • Creating a new arms-length agency called the Ontario Infrastructure Bank to invest in large-scale infrastructure projects across the province and to attract institutional investors to help build critical infrastructure.  

    • Investing $200M over three years in a new Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund that will protect communities and help unlock new housing opportunities. This complements the recently-announced $1.2B Building Faster Fund to support municipalities achieve their housing targets. 

    The Ministry of Finance reiterated its intent to undertake a review of the Province’s tax system to support the competitiveness and long-term growth of Ontario businesses.  

    The Fall Economic Statement also outlined a gradual growth in government program expenses through to 2026, with healthcare, education, and postsecondary education sectors to receive increases in budget.  

    The Ministry of Finance forecasts that Ontario will face a longer path to fiscal balance than projected in last spring’s budget, as high interest rates and inflation put pressure on the province’s economy. While unemployment remains low, with employment up 1% since April, projections for growth and job creation have been revised downward. The projected deficit for this year has increased to $5.6 billion, up from $1.3 billion in March, with Ontario expected to get back to balance in 2025-2026, with a projected $500-million surplus.  

    Over the next few days, we will review the details of the Fall Economic Statement in greater depth. 

    Please note that the Ontario Government will be launching the 2024 Budget Consultation platform and online survey on November 13, 2023. You can share your feedback and ideas by January 31, 2024. 

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

     

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD 

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs 

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