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  • 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