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Ottawa announces nearly $8M in funding for Tourism Toronto|BCI CANADA

© Patrick Morrell/CBC NewsBars, restaurants and tourist attractions have all been at a standstill since the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal funding is aimed at supporting the economic recovery of the tourism sector.

Tourism Toronto is set to receive nearly $8 million in federal funding.

In a news release, the federal government announced that it will invest $7.9 million to support the tourism agency's marketing efforts because travel and tourism-related activities have been brought to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Our tourism sector and the 1.8 million people it employs across Canada have been hit hard by

COVID-19, and we're here for them," Melanie Joly, minister of economic development and official languages, said in the release.

The funding, which will be delivered in partnership through FedDev Ontario and the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, is part of more than $70 million of federal support to tourism programs around the country announced on Sunday.

The support comes from the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, a national $962-million fund aimed at supporting businesses and organizations that are unable to access other existing measures launched earlier in May in response to the pandemic. 

Bars and restaurants are closed to dine-in services and tourists attractions have shuttered since Ontario declared a state of emergency back in March.

© John Rieti/CBCAccording to the survey taken last month, more than 60 per cent of tourism businesses in Toronto said they were temporarily closed, and half of seasonal businesses said they wouldn't be able to open for the summer season.

Province likely to lose 50% of tourism revenue this year

With about one in 10 Canadians employed through tourism, Joly said it's important to support those who have been affected the most. 

"Tourism is a very big industry," she told CBC Toronto on Sunday. 

Joly says the money will help businesses to pay for personal protective equipment, retool facilities, and help "welcome Ontarians" back into the province. 

"Our message to the sector and those whose livelihoods depend on it is clear: We're working with you to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. We're working with you as our economy reopens so we can come back strong," Joly said. 

Beth Potter, president and CEO of Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), said the industry brings in $36 billion annually across Ontario. 

Due to COVID-19, Potter said the province is looking at losing just over 50 per cent of that revenue in 2020. 

Additionally, she said about 65 per cent of Ontario tourism businesses are closed and some 38 per cent of jobs have been lost. 

Potter said TIAO is now working with destination marketing organizations across the province "to bring Ontarians to their local communities." 

"We're really pushing Ontarians to get out and explore this summer, to go parts of the province you haven't been to." 

Industry facing long road to recovery: Tourism Toronto 

Andrew Weir, executive vice-president of Tourism Toronto, said money allocated for Toronto will go toward marketing businesses that have found ways to reopen partially or offer "alternative experiences." 

"The tourism industry was probably one of the first industries to be hit and is probably facing one of the longest roads back of all the different economic sectors," Weir said.

By injecting funds back into the industry, Weir said it can begin to make the public aware of how businesses have started to adapt and move toward a gradual reopening. 

And in order to do that, he says "you simply need resources, you simply need money to reach widely." 

But with Canada's border closed to non-essential travel until at least June 21, Weir said: "There's a long process ahead."

"This is a city that has always welcomed visitors, and we look forward to continuing to do that," he added. "It's a start." 


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