Ontario’s (Canada) local tourism received a multi-million-dollar boost.
According to a report, the Regional Tourism Organization 7 (RTO7), which offers strategic and collaborative leadership to build, sustain and grow the tourism industry within Bruce, Grey, and Simcoe counties, is one of the 11 RTOs in southern Ontario to receive funding as part of a CA$68.5-million investment via the Tourism Relief Fund.
The grant, which was announced Wednesday by Helena Jaczek, the minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), is aimed at helping tourism-related businesses and communities welcome visitors safely and recover from the pandemic and prepare for the future growth.
The funds will be made available through non-repayable contributions of up to CA$100,000 for southern Ontario tourism-related businesses and organizations to invest and create new and better tourism experiences to draw visitors from Canada and worldwide.
Across the province, the grant is expected to aid up to 1,300 tourism organizations and help create or sustain up to 4,100 new jobs.
According to County of Simcoe tourism manager Kathryn Stephenson, the funding will be distributed locally through RTO7, adding that tourism-oriented companies and organizations can apply for a portion of the grant.
“It’s available for not-for-profits, municipalities, private businesses, Indigenous businesses. It’s available to all of the different sectors in tourism but is available through an application process that RTO7 will administer,” she said.
Stephenson said she sees the grant as a significant boost for the region’s tourism and hospitality sector after being decimated due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the lockdowns, it’s just been terrible for (those) industries. It will infuse money into the region — Bruce, Grey, and Simcoe for our particular region, but all of southern Ontario — to support new infrastructure in tourism, experiences and really support the destination and destination businesses so we can be ready to receive visitors,” she said.
“Whether we are upgrading, adding infrastructure (or) doing large marketing campaigns, we are going to be able to have some funding to get the destination back running,” Stephenson added.
She added that Bruce-Grey-Simcoe provides a range of unique experiences, making it an all-season tourist destination.
“We are somewhat of a rural destination and have a plethora of outdoor recreation, especially Simcoe County. Bruce-Grey-Simcoe is a four-season destination. I know you hear that a lot, but we truly are. We have outdoor experiences that are extremely authentic to the region, but then we also have a great agri-tourism product,” she said, pointing to the region’s successful maple syrup season.
“I think this all makes (it) a unique destination, especially during and after COVID. People want to get outside, health and wellness is top of mind for everyone, and we have that kind of offering,” Stephenson added. “We have the trails, cycling routes, agri-tourism products, farmers markets, skiing, beaches… (plus) we have some really great resort products.”
In an email, Simcoe County Warden George Cornell said the funding would be vital to helping revive tourism in the area.
“Tourism represents Simcoe County’s largest employment sector, with more than 25,000 tourism and hospitality workers,” he said. “This funding, combined with additional supports, such as the county’s tourism, culture, and grant, is welcome and timely as businesses work toward recovery, bring back vital jobs, and support our regional economy by attracting visitors in a safe manner to our amazing region.”
Despite the many challenges that have been faced in the past two years, Stephenson stated that she’s cautiously optimistic the industry will be able to bounce back.
This story originally appeared on Bradford Today.