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New $1.25M training program aims to help hard-hit northern tourism industry

It will created 300 job opportunities at 150 different tourism operators

Ontario is planning to help the hard-hit tourism industry in Northern Ontario recover from the COVID-19 pandemic with a $1.25-million investment to create 300 job opportunities with 150 different tourism employers.

Participants in this program will get training for positions like customer service, front-desk reception, guest services and housekeeping, as well as training in COVID-19-safe operating protocols, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, and service excellence.

At least 150 employers, mostly rural tourism operators, will be involved in hiring new workers to meet the expected demand. Employers will be reimbursed 30 per cent of wages up to $3,000 per worker hired.

The program will start in June with online, self-directed training to take place over the next few months. Participants will be placed in positions for the summer months until September throughout Northern Ontario.

Ontario is the “comeback province, and great ideas like this are why,” said Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development, who provided details about the project through Facebook Live on Thursday.

“We must do all we can to support those who have been set back, and use every lever we have to create new and meaningful opportunities,” said McNaughton. “Tourism and hospitality has had it tough, to say the least. This means 300 more people not worrying about filling up their car with fuel, or buying all the groceries they need without hesitation.”

“Northern Ontario is a vast region surrounded by pristine wilderness ripe for exploring,” said David MacLachlan, executive director of Destination Northern Ontario. “There are more than 250,000 lakes and rivers, thousands of trails, and it’s safe to say you could spend a lifetime discovering everything the North has to offer.”

MacLachlan said the industry is excited about the possibility of having an open season this year.

This project will refine the authentic destination experience as a product you can only find in this part of the world, said Lisa MacLeod, minister of heritage, sport, tourism, and culture industries.

This will be the year of the ‘staycation’, with the province encouraging Ontarians to stay within their own backyard when it comes to vacationing, she said. 

“I know this has been a challenging time, but tourism will recover in Ontario,” MacLeod said. “But the emphasis will be on staycations this year, encouraging Ontarians to stay within the province, and when it’s safe to open the borders, we will be in a better position than we were in pre-pandemic with an authentic, made-in-Ontario product.”

Prior to the pandemic, Ontario’s tourism industry generated more than $36 billion in economic activity and supported more than 390,000 jobs across the province. Tourism‐related industries experienced a total combined loss of 141,000 jobs between February 2020 and April 2021.

People interested in participating in this Destination Northern Ontario program or employers interested in hiring participants can find out more and apply at their local Employment Ontario office, or directly by contacting Destination Northern Ontario at (705) 523-2228.