The Ontario government will uncork a $350-million tonic to help stabilize and revive tourism and hospitality ventures. That will be poured out as direct aid for small operators, support programs for larger attractions, and inducements for consumers, following a year of COVID-19-related business losses.
The newly released 2021 provincial budget pledges about $100 million to deliver one-time grants of $10,000 to $20,000 for small businesses including hotels, motels, amusement parks, recreational and vacation camps, and hunting and fishing lodges. Further details and an application portal are yet to be available on the government’s webpages for COVID-19 support programs. However, eligibility requirements will be aligned with those for the existing grant program for a range of small businesses forced to shut down or restrict operations due to public health controls.
Tourism/hospitality operators will have to demonstrate revenue declines of at least 20 per cent compared to the pre-pandemic period and employ fewer than 100 people. Applicants will not qualify if they have already been approved for grants under the existing small business relief program.
Additionally, a $100-million Ontario Tourism Recovery Program is promised to help subsidize marketing costs and other reopening logistics for larger ventures and attractions. “This initiative will provide support for historically successful businesses that have helped to drive employment and visitation in their regions,” the budget document states.
Ontarians can also expect some encouragement to vacation in the province via a future tax credit. The budget reports $150 million has been earmarked for that purpose and enabling legislation will be introduced “when public health experts advise that it is safe to travel”.
In the interim, staycationers will have an economical option for outings since entry fees to Ontario provincial parks will be waived for day use, Mondays to Thursdays from May 1 to September 2.
“Parks and conservation reserves have been places of safe recreation during the pandemic,” the budget document observes. “This will help more people and families enjoy outdoor activities such as canoeing, hiking and bike riding in provincial parks.”