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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
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