NOTO May 6th Survey Results

NOTO Resource-Based Tourism Survey Report, May 6, 2020

As the advocacy and support organization for the resource-based tourism (RBT) industry, NOTO has taken the initiative to design a survey to measure the severe impacts that we have heard anecdotally as a result of the global pandemic reaching Canada and Ontario, and the measures all levels of Government have taken to protect the public and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
To date, the challenges for this sector are immense. With the 2020 marketing season cut short and no means to generate revenues, seasonal tourism businesses are being stretched to cover fixed costs, maintain staff and simply stay afloat. The uncertainty of whether they will have a spring, summer or fall season makes it near impossible to plan or pivot for these small businesses.
Cancellations from US guests beginning with those booked for the Spring bear hunt have been numerous and tourism operators are finding it challenging to negotiate postponing trips vs cancelling and providing refunds. The challenge for operators is that they use the money from deposits to carry them through the off-season and/or to cover start-up costs for the season so they don’t necessary have the cash to provide refunds to guests who are cancelling due to COVID-19.
At this point, we know that a good majority of operators are working with their guests to provide partial deposit dollars towards future trips (i.e. operators retain 60% of the deposit and the guest can use 40% towards their next trip). The rationale behind this is that it is not the fault of the camp operator or the guest that the trip has been cancelled and sharing the burden is the fairest process to take.
In early surveys, 121 bear hunters reported that if the US border remained closed and the spring hunt was not able to take place, they would lose collectively $2.2M. The total number of bear outfitters is approximately 436. It is now confirmed that the US/Canada border will remain closed through the Spring bear hunt season (May 1 – June 15) and these loses are now an unfortunate reality.
This survey will show that 225 RBT businesses will lose $50M if May and June operating months are not able to take place. These 225 businesses represent approximately 20% of the RBT industry in Ontario. This is absolutely devastating to an industry who provides such a significant contribution to the economy each year. Our ability to serve the US angling and hunting markets are vital to this industry’s survival. For many operators in Northwestern Ontario particularly, it will be a challenge to pivot their marketing and business models to target the domestic market. They will need support to do this.
The financial burden due to COVID-19 on the RBT industry is truly devastating. Many small businesses in this sector are not eligible for the financial support offered by the Federal Government. They are forced to seek additional loans which leave their ability to recover from COVID-19 on shaky ground. This survey takes a closer look at the programs currently offered and the gaps reported by this sector.
In order for this sector of tourism to survive and recover, we must have more meaningful support.