This week signalled the return of TIAO’s in person ‘Tourism Day’ at Queen’s Park and our popular ‘Taste of Ontario’ reception held in partnership with the Culinary Tourism Alliance. A welcome return to the Legislature for the first time since 2019.
On Monday evening we welcomed MPPs and their staff to sample some of the best food and beverages that Ontario has to offer. Each vendor was a member of the ‘Feast On’ program – North America’s largest and longest running local food certification program that recognizes businesses across the food tourism value chain, committed to sourcing Ontario grown food & drink. It was fantastic to bring people together again and give our delegation the opportunity to meet with elected representatives and their staff and to share their experiences. We enjoyed discussing how the challenges facing our industry have evolved since the pandemic in an informal atmosphere.
The following day, forty delegate representing the tourism industry held more than twenty meetings with government ministers, opposition leaders, and MPPs from all political parties to discuss the current state of the tourism industry in Ontario. As detailed in my column last week, our message was loud and clear: despite the significant progress we have made as an industry to undo the damage caused by the pandemic, tourism businesses now face a perfect storm of high inflation and interest rates, costly disruptions to the supply chain, rising fuel prices, an acute labour crisis, and a cost-of-living crisis that is affecting the consumer sentiment of both domestic and international travellers.
Just this week Destination Canada released detailed statistics that show that in July 2023 Canada welcomed 2.8 million monthly visitors – an increase of 34% over July of the previous year, which brought July arrivals up to 82% of pre-pandemic levels. Therefore, not only are businesses facing much higher costs, but they are also still missing one in five visitors from pre-pandemic levels.
From the issue of debt to the labour crisis, economic development and regulatory reform, to infrastructure and transportation, we continue to put forward common-sense and pragmatic solutions to support the industry. In the coming days we will both review the feedback from our delegates and examine every opportunity for collaboration with the MPPs with whom we met on Tuesday and those that have arranged meetings for the coming days.
The TIAO team would like to thank those elected members and their staff for meeting with us as well as our delegation for their commitment and diligence in their advocacy to support the tourism industry in Ontario.