Top 10 Recommendations of the Task Force
1. Emphasize safety in everything we say and do
Using the same energy and effort to tell Ontarians to “stay home” throughout the pandemic, the Ontario government and public health officials will need to communicate to Ontarians that it is “safe to travel”. When it is safe to travel, utilize government officials, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and Ontario influencers to get the message out and promote all that Ontario has to offer. This will instill consumer confidence, encourage communities to welcome visitors and help to jumpstart and recover the tourism industry.
2. Give Ontarians an incentive to get out of the home and make new local memories
The travel incentive can support recovery by encouraging Ontarians to support local businesses and contribute to their community. The Ontario government will need to target consumers at the point of sale to remind them of potential savings issued through the incentive – encouraging visitors to extend their stays and visit more places. Simultaneously, a consumer confidence campaign should be launched to encourage Ontarians to travel during the “year of the staycation”. In addition to the travel incentive, it is recommended that Ontario develop a branded Ontario travel points card to enable medium and longer-term recovery.
3. Encourage and excite Ontarians to experience Ontario through New “Yours to Discover” days
Generate demand and excitement for Ontarians to explore their province in late 2021 and 2022 to make up for lost vacations due to the pandemic. With difficult but necessary public health restrictions in place, many holidays and plans to travel to Ontario were put on hold – a coordinated effort from the whole of the industry incent travel on these select days will help to get Ontarians out to discover all their province has to offer! Location: Algonquin Provincial Park Photo Credit: Destination Ontario
4. Provide increased stability and opportunities to tourism businesses and organizations
The Ontario government can enable attractions, sporting events, cultural events and festivals to align with a 3-5 year recovery timeline, by introducing multi-year operating funding programs or expanding current programs like Reconnect. This will act as a way to keep tourism organizations, businesses and operators afloat so that they can then be used as drivers of economic recovery in the medium and longer term.
5. Bring back conventions and business events to Ontario
Establish a multi-year Conventions and Business Events Support Fund to remain competitive and support the long-term economic recovery of the gateway cities and beyond, to support the lucrative business and leisure travel market.
6. Make it easier for people to find the package, products and destinations that suit their budgets, schedules, and needs
The Task Force recommends direct industry support be provided to create products, attractions and experiences that appeal to everyone in all stages of life. From cultural attractions to nature and outdoor opportunities; family friendly deals to adult weekend getaways; and from affordable packages to luxury events – Ontario has everything to offer. These opportunities need to be market ready, easy to understand and accessible by all travellers.
7. Reduce the amount of time tourism businesses spend on red tape so they can spend more time delivering unforgettable experiences
Build on the government’s early successes to support businesses (e.g., providing municipalities with the power to designate public spaces for responsible alcohol consumption, permanently allowing restaurants to do takeout/delivery of alcohol), by taking a cross-ministerial approach and collaborating with ministries to create the conditions for a thriving tourism industry, related to responsibly loosening alcohol laws, hospitality sector and gaming and reviewing the Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) to optimize revenue generation for the tourism industry.
8. Make Nature and Outdoor experiences part of the province’s solution to physical and mental health challenges
There are significant mental and physical health benefits to participating in nature and outdoor tourism, which are also generally considered to be safer activities in relation to COVID-19. Over the past year, people have enjoyed reconnecting with nature and the outdoors by getting back on their bikes, exploring hiking trails and visiting local parks. There is an opportunity to capitalize on the interest in these activities to better promote the beautiful, unique, and wide-ranging nature and outdoor experiences Ontario has to offer across the province.
9. Create “Bite-Sized” Mobile and Scalable Experiences during the transition period to a full re-opening
To create momentum for when Ontario fully reopens, the Task Force recommends supporting, in the interim, scalable and mobile experiences, festivals and events (i.e., roadshow events) and business conferences. These “bite-sized” experiences will help to fill the gap and appetite for Ontarians and visitors until full-scale events and shows can resume safely. Ontario is host to a diverse, cultural landscape with rich tourism experiences that can be capitalized on to entice visitors to discover and participate.
10. Showcase the Best of Ontario through packaged Itineraries and Trails
Ontario has a unique and privileged opportunity to leverage and build on existing itineraries and trails. These diverse offerings can be used to showcase the “world in one province” and encourage travel across all regions and seasons in Ontario. Ontario has a number of existing branded trails already, from the Moments of Algoma Group of Seven project to the Route Champlain, from the outstanding culinary trails that feature butter tarts and cheeses to the breathtaking view across the Georgian Bay Coastal route, there is something for everyone. Having these well branded itineraries, based on research and analytics, will help to yield established travel preferences and interests, as well as new avid markets. These routes should be intuitive and make it easy to find Ontario products and experiences.