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Provincial funding seeks to boost Hamilton-area tourism amid COVID-19

The funding announcement was made at the Art Gallery of Hamilton on Thursday.
The funding announcement was made at the Art Gallery of Hamilton on Thursday. Ken Mann

The Ontario government has announced the Hamilton region will receive more than $700,000 to help its tourism sector recover from COVID-19.

Half of the money — $350,000 — will support the regional tourism association’s Stay and Play marketing campaign as it tries to get locals to visit nearby attractions during the province’s phased reopening plan.

Hamilton Halton Brant Regional Tourism Association executive director Maria Fortunato said her organization shifted to a “hyperlocal” marketing strategy early in the pandemic as borders were closed and people were encouraged to stay close to home.

Read more: How the coronavirus pandemic has put Canadian tourism in ‘survival mode’

The other half of the funding will be allocated to support festivals and events that have been impacted by the pandemic, such as Supercrawl and the Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) film festival.

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Many such events are continuing in 2020, but have shifted to a virtual format.

Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Lisa MacLeod made the funding announcement at the AGH on Wednesday afternoon, saying: “We have amazing, world-class facilities in every single community in this province that we may have overlooked just before March 12, 2020.”

MacLeod says it’s now time “for us to start seeing what’s in our own backyard.”

Read more: Federal funding allows Art Gallery of Hamilton to study potential expansion

The AGH reopened on Thursday morning and is offering free admission for the rest of July to welcome back visitors.

Speaking to operators within the tourism sector, MacLeod acknowledged that “it’s going to be a long road to recovery for many of us.”

She says the government is committed to doing its part not only through financial support but by showing it has “confidence” in members of the local tourism industry to ensure that health and physical-distancing protocols are in place to provide a safe environment for visitors.