This week started with the devastating news that we lost Keith Simmonds, General Manager and Vice President of Great Wolf Lodge of Niagara Falls, over the weekend.
The tourism industry in Ontario is a family - and a tight-knit one at that - and Keith was a prominent member. A powerful advocate for the tourism industry in Niagara and across Ontario, he was at the forefront of demonstrating the impact of the pandemic on the tourism industry. Keith was a multiple award winner for his work in tourism, but famously would always remind people that it was his team, or wolfpack as he would say, that deserve the true credit.
Keith’s energy and enthusiasm stretched so far, supporting his community and those around him. Many of you will know that just before Keith passed away, he had helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars through a sponsored cycle in aid of Campfire Circle, a charity that brings laughter and joy to kids and families affected by childhood cancer.
Keith was a former TIAO board member serving six full years and even after his term ended, he never stopped offering his time and expertise. Whether that was providing meditation and yoga sessions during our virtual summit in 2020 or when I became CEO of TIAO being on hand with sage advice for a brand-new CEO during a worldwide pandemic. Keith’s loss will be felt deeply within Niagara and Ontario, across the tourism community and for all of those who knew him. The thoughts of the TIAO staff team and Board of Director’s are with Keith’s family and friends during this time.
In keeping with the impact that Keith had on so many of us, there will be a celebration of his life on Sunday October 2, 2022, 11:30am at Niagara Falls Convention Centre, 6815 Stanley Ave., Niagara Falls, Ontario. For those unable to attend, it will be livestreamed at Keith Simmonds Celebration of Life.
On Monday the Federal Government confirmed press speculation that they were officially lifting the remaining border and travel restrictions on October 1. The removal of the mandatory requirement to show proof of vaccination, submit public health information through the ArriveCAN app, undergo pre- or on-arrival testing or wear masks and planes has been a key part of TIAO advocacy efforts in support of TIAC for many months. Whilst this is welcome news and finally puts us on equal footing with many other destinations in the G7, the work begins now to reassure international travellers that they can again expect a seamless travel experience when visiting to Canada. On a personal level, I’d like to thank Beth Potter and the TIAC team for their tireless work on this issue and their persistence in representing tourism to the Federal Government.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, TIAO attended Tourism HR Canada’s Labour Market Forum in Ottawa. It was the first in-person forum since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Tourism and hospitality leaders from across the country joined together to discuss the depth of the crisis, propose legislative solutions and share best practices that can help ensure our recovery is not stalled by our inability to fill vacant positions. We know here in Ontario that the labour crisis is already having a debilitating impact, with businesses remaining closed several days of the week or unable to offer the level of service they would expect to provide their customers. Topics covered included regulatory reform, changing immigration processes, pathways to permanent residency and improving the standards and image of working within our industry.
I would like to thank those that have completed our latest state of the tourism industry survey that aims to track the scale of the recovery during the summer period. We know from anecdotal information and land border crossing statistics available that the recovery remains fragile and uneven across the province. At the same time, some government loan programs are due for repayment at the end of the year. The information you provide us with helps us to provide credible data to reinforce our recommendations to the government. You can take part in our latest survey by clicking here.
Finally, on Wednesday night, TIAO attended the Canadian Special Event Awards as a nominee for three different awards for the Ontario Tourism Summit 2021. I’m delighted to report that the TIAO team was awarded two awards for Best Virtual Event by an Association or Board and Best Event by an Association or Board! As you can imagine, I’m incredibly proud of the TIAO team, especially our summit curators Carol Greenwood and Landon Logie, for their vision and expertise in delivering a multiple award-winning event.
Of course, it would be remiss of me not to remind you that if you’ve not secured your ticket for this year’s summit you can do so today by clicking here. Ensure you arrive Monday night, whether staying at Deerhurst Resort or Hidden Valley Resort, as you won’t want to miss Tuesday programming that begins at 8AM.
As ever, this is only a snapshot of the work that TIAO has undertaken. If you have any questions or would like to raise an issue with us, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a team member and we will endeavor to get back to you as quickly as possible.
President & CEO