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Ontario’s tourism sector still struggling from post-pandemic hangover

New report outlines challenges faced by tourism sector, calls for provincial strategy
(Tourism Industry Association of Ontario photo)

The lingering impact of the pandemic very much remains a legacy issue for tourism operators in Ontario.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) have completed a report, The State of the Ontario Tourism Industry, that the two organizations say provides a “blueprint for recovery.” It contains a list of recommendations to tackle the short and long-term challenges for the industry.

A joint news release said the report draws on input from operators, experts, associations, chambers of commerce and boards of trade, and education leaders from across Ontario. Border closures, capacity restrictions and lockdowns exacerbated structural issues, they said, have “have left the industry far from recovery.”

“Ontario should be the most attractive place to visit, work and invest in tourism,” said TIAO President-CEO Christopher Bloore in a news release. “Prior to the pandemic, the tourism industry was a $36-billion industry in this province. As a vital sector of the economy, we need a cross-ministerial strategy to ensure tourism returns to and exceeds pre-pandemic economic activity.”

“Ontario can and should be at the top of every tourist’s bucket list,” said Chamber President-CEO Rocco Rossi. “The Ontario Chamber of Commerce is proud to partner with the Tourism Association of Ontario and our members to ensure our province continues to be a competitive tourism destination within Canada and globally.

“With a recession looming, it’s more important than ever that government and businesses work together to bolster this important sector by addressing labour shortages, regulatory burdens, infrastructure deficits, and regional disparities.”

Among the recommendations are:

  • There are under-explored markets with potential to attract more international visitors to Ontario, such as intercultural exchanges with Indigenous and Francophone tourism sectors, as well as cannabis tourism.
  • Gaps in public transportation need to be addressed within and between Ontario destinations. These gaps limit mobility, opportunities for multi-destination travel, and the recruitment and retention of workers.
  • Access to reliable, high-speed broadband is critical to participating in an increasingly digital economy.

A provincial tourism strategy should place special emphasis on alleviating regional and sector disparities such as in Northern Ontario and border cities.