Northern Ontario Tourism Businesses Call on Government to Open Canada/US Border Now
Northern Ontario, June 29, 2021 — Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO) on behalf of the resource-based tourism (RBT) industry, is calling on the Canadian Government to open the Canada/US border on July 22nd to fully vaccinated American and global travelers.
There are over 1,000 seasonal lodges, resorts, campgrounds, outposts and outfitters across Northern Ontario that, after almost two years of pandemic related restrictions, are on the verge of total collapse. The loss these businesses will have deep and far-ranging impacts on many local communities and the people whose livelihoods depend on seasonal tourism.
The most affected operators offer services to anglers, hunters, outdoor recreationists, and those seeking a Canadian wilderness experience the majority of whom are from the United States, but also from around the world.
“This is the tipping point for many of these businesses. Without reopening our borders they are facing the loss of yet another tourism season at the same time as government support programs are being rolled back or shut down,” explains NOTO Executive Director Laurie Marcil.
Approximately 50% of RBT businesses have a 90%+ US clientele base. These businesses and their guests contribute over $400 million in GDP which is retained in Northern Ontario during a 4 to 5-month operating season.
“The loss of May, June and July after losing an entire revenue season last year is financially devastating. Many operators have depleted their life savings to stay afloat financially, and they need to be back in business now, not weeks or months,” observes Ms. Marcil who points out that, aside from tourism operators, thousands of people are being affected by the subsequent loss of seasonal employment as well as lost revenue for local businesses, service providers and suppliers.
A recent study entitled: The Impacts of COVID-19 on Northern Ontario Accommodations and Recommendations for Future Planning, commissioned by Destination Northern Ontario in 2021 revealed that the RBT sector has seen a 91% decline in revenues compared to pre-COVID numbers. The study also concluded that the increased debt tourism businesses have incurred during this pandemic means this sector will take up to 5 years to get back to 2019 profitability levels.
“When you consider the budget, which proposes winding down the wage subsidy and other financial support programs for businesses, and no definitive plan on when the border will open to their guests, tourism business owners are extremely fearful of their future. The new money international travelers bring will be critical to getting not only our businesses but Canada’s economy back on the road to recovery,” adds Ms. Marcil.
Earlier this week, the Federal Government announced loosening restrictions on Canadian’s and certain foreign nationals who are permitted to enter Canada by eliminating the need for quarantine and additional testing. Although a good first step, the lifting of restrictions needs to be extended to non-essential travelers by July 22nd.
Chris Bloore, President and CEO of Tourism Industry Association of Ontario offered the following in support, “TIAO recognizes the integral nature of American tourists to the Northern Ontario economy. NOTO’s request to open the border to fully vaccinated travelers is both sensible and responsible. TIAO is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with local operators and NOTO in fighting for the survival of our industry.”
Bob Garson, President of NOTO and Owner of Garson’s Fly-In Outposts north of White River says, “The announcement on the new border policies still does nothing to help the devastated tourism businesses in Northern Ontario. Bringing home Canadians is great, but we either need Americans or more significant and long-term financial aid if we are going keep the future of tourism alive in the North. I think I can speak for all tourism operators in saying we vastly prefer running a business than having to take a handout.”
Recent recommendations from the Expert Advisory Panel and medical experts advise that Canada has made enough progress in the battle against COVID to begin to ease testing and travel restrictions. NOTO is calling on the Canadian Government to listen to the experts and solidify plans for reopening the border now. “We are appreciative of the measures that the Federal Government has made during the pandemic to keep Canadians safe and to stop the spread of COVID. We have all worked hard to do our part to support these measures, but it is time to lift restrictions in a planned and deliberate fashion with an eye toward economic recovery. The future of these small family businesses and the communities that they support are depending on it,” concludes Ms. Marcil.
About Nature & Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO)
Nature & Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO) is a not-for-profit membership-based trade organization that supports the resource-based tourism industry through consultation and business supports. NOTO works with Government to ensure policies and regulations support the growth and vitality of the resource-based tourism industry in Ontario. NOTO collaborates with regional, provincial and federal tourism organizations to support this sector of tourism broadly. NOTO celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2019.
Laurie MarcilExecutive Director Nature & Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO)firstname.lastname@example.org