June 8, 2021 – Barrie, ON
Tourism is essential to the vitality of businesses and communities in Grey and Simcoe counties and the cities of Barrie and Orillia, with millions of visitors traditionally drawn to the area’s attractions such as ski hills, beaches and wineries each year. The sector has been hit hard by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and tourism-related businesses are working hard to build back stronger.
Today, Marie-France Lalonde, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (FedDev Ontario and Official Languages), announced a non-repayable FedDev Ontario investment of $1.2 million to support the tourism industry’s recovery across the Counties of Grey and Simcoe and the cities of Barrie and Orillia.
With this investment, Regional Tourism Organization 7 (RTO7) is providing tourism-dependent businesses with up to $20,000 in non-repayable contributions to support costs associated with adapting and eventually reopening, such as space renovations and retrofits, the purchase of equipment, fixtures and personal protective equipment (PPE), and support for technology and digitization. The fund is being delivered in partnership with Grey County, the City of Barrie, the City of Orillia and the County of Simcoe. It is expected to support 100 businesses and maintain 225 jobs.
One example of a business that has been assisted by RTO7 is Travel by Sound-created by Victoria Yeh, Meaford-based electric violinist, artistic director, and long-time advocate for the region. This six-episode series of virtual concerts filmed at concert halls across Grey and Simcoe counties features tours and adventures throughout the region. With support from RTO7, Victoria was able to improve the video quality for the series, access business consulting services and develop a competitive business strategy, all while keeping her brand relevant and building her fan base.
Another example is IWA Spa in the Blue Mountains. With support from RTO7, IWA Spa was able to obtain PPE for staff and guests and install measures to support social distancing, such as directional signage and sneeze guards. These new additions will enable the spa to reopen in a safe manner.
The tourism sector continues to demonstrate its resilience by adapting to challenges and seeking opportunities for recovery and growth. The Government of Canada is working to support these businesses and communities by helping to maintain jobs and prepare the tourism sector for a strong comeback.
“The tourism industry is no stranger to the struggles brought on by COVID-19, and since the start of this pandemic the Government of Canada has been here to support you. With today’s funding announcement, FedDev Ontario is delivering targeted support to about 100 businesses to prepare for a more resilient future. This investment is ensuring that the tourism sector here in Grey and Simcoe counties, Barrie and Orillia remains strong and vibrant in the months and years to come.
– Marie-France Lalonde, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (FedDev Ontario and Official Languages)
“This funding will help local businesses in the tourism space to safely reopen their doors to visitors when the time comes, by assisting local tourism-oriented businesses to offset the costs of measures such as adapting their spaces, implementing safety protocols and purchasing PPE. Our message to our tourism sector and the workers that rely on it is clear: we have been here for you throughout this pandemic, and we will continue to support you and help Ontario tourism come back strong in the future.”
– The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
“The tourism industry is more than a business within Grey and Simcoe counties and the cities of Barrie and Orillia, it is a way of life for a large percentage of the population. COVID-19 has placed a strain on that way of life and it is encouraging and motivating to see that the Government of Canada and FedDev Ontario have recognized just how important tourism is to our personal and economic wellbeing. We appreciate the assistance provided to the tourism business owners and the vote of confidence in our tourism industry by our federal government.”
– Bill Sullivan, CEO, RTO7
“I am one of very few artists who have been able to successfully monetize virtual concerts and collect ticket sales from audience members. I thank all my sponsors, especially BruceGreySimcoe (RTO7), Grey County Tourism and the Government of Canada for believing in this vision, and for enabling me to survive the pandemic as an artist.”
– Victoria Yeh, Artistic Director, Travel By Sound
“The support allowed for us to complete these multiple projects that allowed us to reopen in a safe manner, in compliance with provincial and regional health regulations. Our stringent protocols and thorough staff training gave us the ability to confidently provide a safe, quality spa experience, which, in turn, gave our consumers confidence to book and return again. Spa guests enthusiastically shared their experiences via online reviews, which we post on our website. Reviews are critical as we know the majority of people do extensive research before visiting an establishment, especially in these unique times.”
– Michelle Ubell, Owner and Founder, IWA Spa
Businesses served by RTO7 historically see more than 10 million tourists each year. There are nearly 9,200 tourism-oriented businesses within the region.
This project is part of a series of investments across southern Ontario totaling $14.8 million to support the region’s tourism sector in adapting to the impacts of COVID-19, including $250,000 for Bruce County announced in 2020.
Since November 1, 2015, FedDev Ontario has invested over $165 million in nearly 500 tourism-related projects. This includes over $93 million for 322 Regional Relief and Recovery Fund projects.
In November 2020, FedDev Ontario announced over $10 million in support for 278 businesses and organizations across the Bruce Grey Simcoe region through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, protecting nearly 1,200 local jobs. This funding has supported the immediate needs of a broad range of businesses, from main street businesses such as retail shops and restaurants, to tourism operators, resorts and bed and breakfasts.
Subject to parliamentary approval, Budget 2021 proposes $500 million over two years through the Tourism Relief Fund for local tourism businesses to adapt their products and services to public health measures, recover from the pandemic and position themselves for growth; and $200 million over two years to support major festivals and events. Subject to Parliamentary approval, these measures will be delivered by the regional development agencies, including FedDev Ontario in southern Ontario.