As part of the 2021 Ontario budget, the government is introducing a few new, targeted incentives aimed at providing support to the province’s hospitality and tourism sectors in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The most notable new program is the Ontario tourism and hospitality small business support grant. The $100-million program will provide one-time payments between $10,000 and $20,000 to hospitality-related businesses that don’t qualify for the Ontario small business support grant.
“It’s a new cohort of businesses who have been allowed to remain open, so they weren’t affected by the lockdown as much. However, their customers haven’t been there — like really impacting them,” Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy told reporters on Wednesday.
In order to access the hospitality support grant, business owners will need to show they had a minimum 20-per-cent decline in revenue and have less than 100 employees.
The program was aimed at hotels, motels, travel agencies, amusement parks, hunting and fishing camps, overnight summer camps, and other recreational and vacation camps.
The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario reported the tourism industry supported approximately 200,000 businesses and 400,000 jobs before the pandemic hit.
A spokesperson for the association called Wednesday’s initiatives important.
“There remain significant challenges to the tourism and hospitality industry moving forward and TIAO will continue to speak up for our industry on reopening and further direct financial support,” Christopher Bloore wrote in a statement.
“But today has been an important step in safeguarding a vital part of our economy and towards exiting this crisis.”
Julie Kwiecinski, a Canadian Federation of Independent Business spokesperson, said her organization was encouraged by the program. However, she called for a doubling of the maximum amount available to businesses and raised concerns about timing.
“We’ve very pleased the government has recognized tourism and hospitality are extremely hard-hit businesses and they need help too, but for this to come in the next few weeks may not be soon enough,” she said.
“A lot of hospitality industries are on their last legs and a lot of them have been shutdown since the beginning of the pandemic, like amusement parks.”
Arts organizations will also be able to collectively access $10 million from the Ontario Arts Council in order to offset the loss of venue rentals and box office drops.
When it comes to Ontario’s provincial parks, the government will be offering no-charge day-use access on Mondays through Thursdays between May 1 and Sept. 2.
Also included in the budget was $100 million for tourism operators and signature attraction businesses. However, there weren’t any details on how much might be given to each business.
The initiatives seemingly build on what was announced as part of the November budget for the 2020 fiscal year, a document that billed 2021 as the “year of the staycation.”
Although previously announced, officials said the government will be moving forward with legislation to enact a tax credit for people who travel within the province when it is safe to do so. The $150-million program is expected to provide a tax credit to residents for up to 20 per cent of “eligible Ontario tourism expenses.”
In the 2021 budget, the province’s regional tourism organizations are set to receive up to $15 million to help promote travel.