Ontario's tourism, hospitality, culture, sports and recreation sectors have been among the most heavily impacted by the COVID‐19 pandemic. Tourism and hospitality‐related industries experienced a total combined loss of 140,100 jobs between February 2020 and 2021.
On March 24, 2021, the 2021 Ontario Budget was announced by Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy. In it, were items critical to helping the tourism industry survive and thrive when the pandemic is over. Below we've listed some of the key tourism related highlights within the budget. You can find the full budget here.
*We will update this page with links to the various initiatives when they are made available. Please call or email us at any time if you have questions.*
Helping Ontario's Tourism Industry Recover and Rebuild
Ontario Tourism Recovery Program
Ontario is introducing the Ontario Tourism Recovery Program, a new $100 million initiative for 2021–22 to help tourism operators, anchor businesses and attractions recover from the impacts of COVID‐19. This initiative will provide support for historically successful businesses that have helped to drive employment and visitation in their regions by assisting with costs related to restructuring, safe reopening, recalibrated marketing activities and partnership development.
Ontario Small Business Support Grant Payments
Ontario is providing a second round of Ontario Small Business Support Grant payments to eligible recipients. Approximately 120,000 small businesses will automatically benefit from an additional $1.7 billion in relief through this second round of support in the form of grants of a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000
Encouraging Residents to Vacation within Ontario when it is Safe
Supporting staycations via tax credits for eligible Ontario tourism travel expenses
Public health and safety measures aimed at containing the spread of COVID‐19, while necessary, have affected tourism across Ontario. In the 2020 Budget, the government announced that it would explore ways to provide Ontario residents with support of up to 20 per cent for eligible Ontario tourism expenses to encourage them to discover the province in 2021. To this end, the government has set aside $150 million and intends to introduce legislation for a tax credit to encourage residents to explore Ontario when public health experts advise that it is safe to travel.
Supporting Ontario's Regional Tourism Organizations
Additional funds for RTOs
Ontario is committing to supporting tourism across the province through increased funding of up to $15 million for the Regional Tourism Organizations (RTOs) in 2021–22. (*Note, Chatham-Kent is part of RTO1). The initiative will help stabilize and support the tourism sector's efforts to attract domestic and international visitors when it is safe to do so. It will support the continued operation of Destination Toronto, Ottawa Tourism, and the 11 additional RTOs for the recovery of regional tourism, and to maintain and produce new, innovative tourism services and experiences under a modernized mandate.
Standing Behind Ontario's Arts Community
To support the arts sector during COVID‐19, the government is increasing its investment in Ontario's arts community by $10 million in 2021–22. With support from the Ontario Arts Council (OAC), this increased investment will assist with significant costs incurred when preparing for activities and events that could not go forward in 2020–21. It will also help with financial impacts that occurred from the loss of box office revenue and venue rental income, as well as new costs related to health and safety, and digital or virtual programming. This new investment will help arts organizations throughout the province adapt their programming as they rebuild their audience, membership and donor bases. It will also support jobs at the local level for musicians, writers, painters, actors, dancers, stagehands and many others who support Ontario's arts and culture industry.
Providing More Opportunities to Enjoy Ontario Parks
Free day-use entry for Ontario parks
Parks and conservation reserves have been places of safe recreation during the pandemic. As people look for more opportunities to safely enjoy the outdoors, Ontario is encouraging visits to provincial parks by offering free day‐use entry on Mondays through Thursdays, from May 1 to September 2 this year. This will help more people and families enjoy outdoor activities such as canoeing, hiking and bike riding in provincial parks. Ontario will also invest an estimated $3.9 million over three years to enhance the provincial park experience by using technology to better connect the people of Ontario with a one‐stop shop to help them find recreational opportunities that fit their location and interests. The province and local businesses will collaborate to develop ideas to bolster Ontario's tourism economy and create new ways to enjoy provincial parks.
Providing Financial Relief for Resource-Based Tourism Businesses
Ontario is providing targeted support for resource‐based tourism businesses that have been impacted by the COVID‐19 pandemic. Eligible Commercial Outpost Camps and hunting and fishing outfitters would receive another year of relief from certain rents and fees, providing approximately $1.3 million in financial assistance. This relief will help with the recovery of the sector by supporting businesses that employ residents and contribute to local communities.
Supporting Local Alcohol Producers
Help for local beverage alcohol producers
Ontario's rural communities and local agri‐tourism businesses have been severely impacted as a result of the COVID‐19 pandemic. These include wineries that had to cancel tours, tastings, weddings and other events that these businesses rely on. The Ontario government made a number of changes to support local beverage alcohol producers, including:
- expanding made in Ontario options at the LCBO and changes to permit the sale of 100 per cent Ontario wine and eligible spirits at farmers' markets
- permitting the sale of Ontario beer at farmers' markets for the upcoming season.
- providing a one‐time $10 million grant in 2021 to help wineries and cideries impacted by lockdown measures, and help ensure that agricultural production and local jobs are maintained in Ontario's rural communities.
- increasing funding for the Small Distillery Support Program by an additional $1.2 million in 2021–22 to help small distillers recover from the impacts of the COVID‐19 pandemic.