Investing in Ontario's Tourism Industry During COVID-19

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Funding will help people reconnect with their communities in new ways, support local economies

December 3, 2020

Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries


TORONTO - The Ontario government is investing nearly $4.4 million to support the long-term sustainability of the province's vital tourism industry. This funding will help deliver innovative, safe experiences, like virtual festivals and events, and support tourism operators as they deal with the impacts of COVID-19.  

Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, was at Stackt Market in Toronto today to announce the first recipients of the new Reconnect Festival and Event Program and the Tourism Economic Development and Recovery Fund. 

"This pandemic continues to disproportionately impact tourism and culture - two major industries which were hit first, the hardest, and will take the longest to recover," said Minister MacLeod. "It is critical that we support organizations as they adapt and find new ways to engage and reconnect Ontarians with their local communities while creating local jobs. Through the Reconnect Festival and Event Program and the Tourism Economic Development and Recovery Fund, our government's investments will help support the economic and social recovery of communities across Ontario, making sure we are well positioned to re-emerge stronger, and once again showcase how Ontario offers the world in one province." 

Through the Reconnect Festival and Event Program, Ontario is investing more than $3.4 million to support 27 local events and initiatives. These events are the first to be approved through the program, which was launched in October 2020. This funding will support festival and event organizers as they adapt to new public health measures with virtual, drive-through and other safe offerings. 

The Ontario government is also investing more than $912,000 in 14 initiatives through the Tourism Economic Development and Recovery Fund. The $1.5-million fund is an application-based, cost-sharing program designed to provide funding for projects that encourage the development of innovative new tourism products, support tourism investment or build the capacity of Ontario's tourism industry. Applications are being accepted on an on-going basis. 

Quick Facts

  • The Reconnect Festival and Event Program is a $9-million fund. Eligible events for the Reconnect Festival and Event Program include reverse holiday parades with drive-by static floats, drive-in music concerts and movies, holiday tree lightings and New Year’s Eve sky light displays.
  • To give organizations more time to develop new programming and submit applications, the Reconnect Festival and Event Program deadline will be extended by three weeks to December 22, 2020, at 5 p.m.
  • To make the Reconnect Festival and Event Program accessible to more organizers, the government is waiving the minimum operating budget requirement.
  • Tourism is a key economic driver in Ontario, supporting more than 400,000 jobs and generating over $36 billion in spending.


"We are pleased to see the investment into the new Tourism Economic Development and Recovery Fund. As many know, these funds are crucial for the survival of many businesses in the tourism industry. It's good to see these funds supporting both businesses and the not-for-profits that support them. We look forward to continue working closely with Minister MacLeod to ensure a strong recovery of our industry."

- Beth Potter 
President and CEO, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

"We greatly appreciate the support of Ontario’s government, and particularly Minister MacLeod, in their support of the hospitality industry and the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA). As we are all aware, our industry has been dramatically impacted by the pandemic, and this funding will be used to cover the membership fees of hospitality operators across the province which we had suspended since the beginning of the pandemic, and which we rely on to function. This greatly supports ORHMA in our efforts to serve the hospitality sector and to aid in the future recovery efforts of our members - the vast majority being small businesses."

- Tony Elenis 
President and CEO, Ontario Restaurant, Hotel & Motel Association

"Festivals and events reflect the vibrancy and the heart of our communities and support the double bottom line championed by Minster MacLeod – they create a sense of place, and bring economic vitality to local businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector. As our hospitality businesses have been so deeply impacted by the pandemic, this support is good news and helps our industry build toward recovery."

- Scott Beck 
President and CEO of Destination Toronto

"Stackt Market is thrilled to be supported in the development of our Crokicurl rink through the Tourism Economic Development and Recovery Fund. With each project Stackt undertakes, we aim to think outside of the box and find new ways to engage with visitors. This funding has helped us create an innovative attraction which will provide Ontarians with a much-needed fun and safe outdoor activity to take part in this winter. We look forward to seeing you at Stackt Market and introducing you to Ontario's newest sport."

- Matt Rubinoff 
Founder, Stackt Market

"The Bentway is a young cultural attraction that was just establishing itself as a new destination for intriguing, enchanting creative programming. The COVID-19 pandemic may have interrupted our plans for 2020, but with the ministry's support, we're forging a road towards recovery. I want to commend the Ministry for its enduring support of the tourism sector through new relief programs like the Reconnect Festival and Event Program, which is helping The Bentway offer free onsite and online programming activations throughout the pandemic, and the Tourism Economic Recovery Development Fund, which will support our efforts to create connections along the under Gardiner corridor in a post-COVID world."

- David Carey 
Co-Executive Director, The Bentway Conservancy