In new data released by the Tourism Industry Assocation of Ontario (TIAO), almost half of all tourism businesses remain very concerned about the future of the tourism industry in Ontario and that despite many restrictions being lifted, continue to face significant economic pressures and labour challenges to ensure its recovery.
In April, TIAO conducted a survey to understand the priorities of the tourism industry as Ontario heads into an election. The survey data affirmed that tourism has reached a critical point in recovery.
Reflecting the severity of the situation, 92% of respondents expressed concern about the future of the tourism industry in Ontario, with 45% reporting that they are very concerned.
Notably, economic recovery is underway but slow-going. 55% of tourism businesses reported that they are generating less than half of their usual pre-COVID revenues and 1 in 4 tourism businesses are generating less than 20% of their pre-COVID revenues. Accordingly, when asked what the top three priorities of the newly elected/re-elected Premier should be to support the tourism industry, Ontario’s tourism businesses responded:
- A comprehensive plan to keep Ontario’s tourism industry open, including guaranteed economic support for businesses
- Creating new grant programs to support tourism businesses still suffering from severe revenue losses
- Working with the federal government to offer debt forgiveness for businesses that have taken on government loans during the pandemic
The labour crisis faced by many tourism and hospitality businesses remains severe and is significantly affecting businesses’ ability to respond adequately to increased demand. Recruitment and retention were cited by businesses as their biggest current challenge (69%).
The survey also showed that:
- 66% of Ontario tourism businesses are unsure that their concerns and priorities will receive attention during the provincial election.
- 6 in 10 businesses are concerned about increased level of debt, the prospect of further lockdowns or capacity restrictions, and the perception that the tourism industry has already recovered and doesn’t need any further government support.
- Almost half of respondents were concerned about unaffordable commercial insurance premiums and over one-third cited low consumer confidence.
- 68% of respondents want the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit to be made permanent as a means to promote domestic tourism.
- 80% of tourism businesses agreed that tourism and hospitality should be included as part of Ontario’s high school career curriculum, with 52% strongly agreeing.
In short, the tourism recovery is underway but obstacles remain on the path to rebuilding—obstacles which require the support of all MPPs to overcome.
In response to the findings, TIAO has therefore launched the website www.OntarioNeedsTourism.ca designed to help members of the tourism industry and members of the public engage with local candidates in their riding about the importance of the tourism industry to the provincial economy.
TIAO has also published a series of sector-specific recommendations in four key areas that will:
- Support the return of tourism by working to remove all remaining barriers to travel.
- Support the growth of tourism businesses by working to address regulatory burdens, remove red tape, and cut taxes.
- Support the recovery and sustainability of tourism by working to address the industry-wide labour crisis.
- Support the rebuild of tourism as a key economic driver by working to address the financial challenges of tourism businesses and supporting long-term industry investment
President and CEO Christopher Bloore said: “The results from this survey illustrate that for the tourism industry, the pace of our recovery remains slow and that there are still significant challenges and obstacles to our sustained recovery. Therefore, in response, TIAO has launched the non-partisan microsite OntarioNeedsTourism.ca to ensure that all prospective Members of the Provincial Parliament understand the size and scope of our industry and the integral role it will play in the future of our provincial economy.”
Bloore continued: “The tourism industry and the wider visitor economy has endured a torrid two years of closures and restrictions. At its peak in tourism alone, 141,000 Ontarians had lost their jobs and tens of billions of dollars in economic activity has been lost. We’re encouraging all candidates to meet with TIAO and local tourism and hospitality businesses to hear directly from the frontline and consider our recommendations, so that if elected, they can play a full role in ensuring our recovery.”
Go to www.tiaontario.ca for more.