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  • 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

    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  

    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