TORONTO — The Ontario Progressive-Conservative government has eliminated vital funding to Tourism Toronto and Ottawa Tourism, resulting in cuts of nearly $13 million, according to CityNews.
Tourism Toronto says the government told the organization about the $9.5-million funding slash in a recent phone call. According to Andrew Weir, executive vice-president of Tourism Toronto, that’s about a quarter of its budget of just under $40 million. What’s more, Ottawa Tourism says its $3.4 million in provincial funding is also being cut, which was 15 per cent of its budget.
Tony Elenis, president of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA), says, given the competitive nature in international markets, cutting tourism will undoubtedly harm the hotel industry.
“The opportunities are huge and it’s proven that success can occur when governments invest [in tourism],” Elenis says. “For hotels, [conferences and the business] that’s brought in through tourism is vital to the success of the industry. Business can often be up and down and even in a down economy, [that’s what carries them through].”
The news follows months of statements and commentary from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, indicating the Province of Ontario is “open for business.” However, stakeholders close to the situation believe the funding cuts exemplify the opposite.
Toronto Mayor John Tory responded to the announcement on Tuesday, saying “it’s hard to argue the province is open for business when it is cutting funding dedicated to telling the world to visit Ontario.”
“Tourism Toronto has helped grow tourism to our city, region, province to record heights — that helps generate revenue and jobs for Ontario,” Tory says.
Weir also added the move will have “real implications” as Tourism Toronto is currently evaluating which markets the organization can no longer promote Toronto in and which major conventions and events they can no longer bring to the city. In addition, the funding cuts will impact Greater Toronto Area (GTA) markets such as Mississauga and Brampton; it will also effect the support Ottawa provides to the Prescott-Russell, Ont. area.
Paul Miller, NDP tourism critic, called the tourism-funding cuts destructive and says they will hurt the province’s economy.
“Investing in tourism doesn’t cost money — it makes money,” Miller noted in a statement. “Doug Ford’s short-sighted and callous move to completely eliminate provincial funding to Tourism Toronto and Ottawa Tourism will jeopardize the billions of dollars in economic activity tourism brings in.”
Last year, Toronto welcomed 44-million visitors and approximately 15.5-million tourists and convention-goers stayed overnight — one third of them were visitors from international markets, according to the Toronto Star. Tourism Toronto also indicated the visitors annually contribute a total of $9 billion directly into the local economy.