COVID-19 Impacts

Monitoring the Impacts of COVID-19 on the Resource-Based Tourism Industry in Ontario

On this page:

  • NOTO’s Survey Results
  • Tourism News
  • Survey Results and Industry Reports from Other Tourism Organizations

NOTO’s Winter Lockdown COVID-19 Impact Survey 2021


The resource-based tourism industry has been impacted by yet another lockdown. Because RBT operators are permitted to open their accommodations to those in need of housing during the emergency period, they do not qualify for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant. This is simply unacceptable. The seasonality aspect of our industry meant that several RBT operators have been unable to access supports from both the Provincial or the Federal Government. Many operators have felt substantial losses in revenue during the 2020 season. The possibility of having yet another uncertain season in 2021 is looming.

The goal of NOTO’s COVID-19 Winter Lockdown Survey is to reinforce our request to add tourism operators to the eligibility list for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, as well as highlight the continued losses our industry faces as we continue to advocate the need for additional support. This survey focuses on the winter revenues lost as a result of the recent lockdown and stay-athome order, as well as the likelihood of replacing bookings with essential workers and/or those in need of housing during the emergency period. The data was collected between January 20th to January 24th, 2021.

The peak of the winter operating season is from January to March. The stay-at-home order and province-wide lockdown which came into effect on January 14th meant operators faced additional revenue losses. A total of 3869 bookings were lost between all participants of the survey. Individual operators lost on average $42,922 as a result of cancelled bookings, for a total of $4,178,900+ in revenues lost between all survey participants. These are just some of the highlights.

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NOTO’s Fall COVID-19 Impact Survey 2020

It’s no suprise that tourism is one of the hardest hit industries of this pandemic. It is also anticipated that the tourism sector will also take 3 to 5 years to recover.

On average, businesses report losing 80% of their annual revenue as a result of COVID-19. 18% of resource-based tourism businesses do not feel that they will remain economically viable through to 2021, and 54% are unsure.

Many businesses, particularly in the Northwest have been unable to access the domestic market due to the distance from major city centers. The border closure has led to several businesses losing on average $499,000.

These are just some of the grim highlights from our survey.

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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.


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Bear Outfitters COVID-19 Impact Survey Results 2020:

This survey was sent to bear outfitting businesses across Ontario to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on bear outfitters. The significant impact of this pandemic on bear outfitters is imminent.

Through this survey we captured a “moment in time” perspective as well as provide a forecast or what the impacts will be if the travel restrictions remain in place through the spring hunt and potentially the fall bear hunt.The data was collected from March 26th to March 31st , 2020. A total of 121 operators completed the survey.

The numbers presented in the summary linked below represent only the data collected from operators who have answered the survey.

NOTO is sharing the results of this survey with Government to request support to assist these small businesses survive these difficult times.We have asked for the development of a Resource-Base Tourism Emergency Fund as well we have asked that Bear Management Area fees be waived for 2020. These results will also be shared with our colleagues on Destination Northern Ontario’s Northern Ontario COVID-19 Task Force to keep them updated with the impacts felt by the industry.

It is important to note that in Ontario, tourism businesses who provide bear hunt services to hunters must acquire a Bear Management Area through MNRF and receive an allocation of Black Bear Hunting Licence Validation Certificates for that area. The large majority of the hunters that use the services of tourism businesses are American guests. So the revenue losses that are being reported in this survey are from those American guests in Canadian dollars.


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NOTO & Operators Media Interviews:

‘The time is now to reopen the border’ Northern Ontario tourism businesses say (Northern Ontario Business) – NOTO, DNO, Crane’s Lochaven Wilderness Resort, Young’s Wilderness Camp)

Northern Tourism Organizations Call for Border to Reopen by July 22nd (CTV News) – NOTO and DNO

Lodge owners in northwestern Ontario frustrated over lack of clarity in border reopening (CBC) – New Moon Lodge, MP Mellilo

‘We’re all in limbo’: With the border closed, Northern outfitters are struggling (TVO) – Agich’s Kaby Kabins, Kaby Lodge, Buck Lake Wilderness Lodges & Outposts, Lodge 88, NOTO & DNO, and MPP Mantha

Northwestern Ontario Outfitters Looking for Customers Closer to Home (CBC News) – Esnagami Lodge & Kashabowie River Resorts story

Northern Ontario Tourism Outfitters ‘Crying for Help’ Says MPP (BayToday) – ‘Premier, the bleeding continues while this government stands by and does nothing. Businesses are dying, and so is Ontario’s tourism’ said MPP Matha.

Northern Ontario Lodges Want Fairness With Small Business Grant (CTV News)

Tourist outfitters in Northern Ontario face huge financial, personal costs (Boreal News) – Clark’s Resorts and Outposts

New Stay-at-Home Order Signals Trouble for Winter Tourism Industry in Northern Ontario (CTV News)

How COVID-19 is affecting outfitters in Northern Ontario (CBC News) – Lodge Eighty Eight’s story

Impacts of COVID-19 on Northern Ontario’s tourism industry ‘swift and devastating’ (Sudbury Star) – Agnew Lake Lodge’s story

COVID-19 Impact Could Devastate Northwestern Ontario’s Outdoor Tourism, Business Owners Say (CBC News)

Tourist Outfitters in Northern Ontario Face Huge Financial, Personal Costs (Boreal News) – Wayne Clark, of Clark’s Resorts and Outposts, says the COVID -19 pandemic, and closed border, has left his huge outfitting business `dead in the water.’

Abilene family who bought dream Canadian fishing lodge says COVID-19 flounders plans (Abilene Reporter News) – Pine Cliff Lodge in Ontario: The couple recently began running the lodge, but travel restrictions because of COVID-19 prevent them from returning for the summer season.

‘This is terrifying’: Northern Ontario tourism operators calling for more help during the pandemic (CTV News) – Stakeholders say several Indigenous and seasonal tourism businesses are facing permanent closure if they don’t get immediate support.

COVID-19 Taking It’s Toll on Seasonal Tourism in Northern Ontario (Northern Ontario Business) – An industry that contributes $400M to the economy eyes an uncertain future.

Northern Ontario Tourism Operators Brace for Tough Season (CBC News) – Many businesses could close permanently if they lose the season, says advocacy group.

COVID-19 in Cottage Country, Part 4: The Tourism Expert (TVO) – TVO speaks with Laurie Marcil, executive director of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario, about cancelled bookings, hunting and fishing operators in crisis — and the prospect of a lost season.

Northeast’s Tourism Operators Challenged to Survive (North Bay Nugget) – Industry calling for it’s share of Government assistance.

Laurie Marcil Talks Spring Bear Hunt (Fish’n Canada) – Laurie Marcil is the Executive Director for Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO), which is the voice for the lodges, resorts and outfitters who are located in the North. Today Laurie is joining us to talk about the Spring Bear Hunt that starts Next Saturday, May 01.

Tourism Outlook Pretty Bleak for Northern Outpost Operators (Bay Today) – With U.S. border closed, COVID-19 could create some small business casualties if no government assistance offered, says outfitters group.

Trying Times for Indigenous, Remote Tourism Operators (The Daily Press, Timmins) – The tourism industry has taken a dive in the wake of the current pandemic.

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Industry Surveys & Impact Reports From Other Organizations

  • Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) Surveys: click here.
  • Destination Northern Ontario Surveys: click here.
  • Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s (TIAC) “State of Tourism in Canada During COVID-19” Reports: click here.
  • Destination Canada’s “State of the Industry”, “COVID-19 Impact on International and Domestic Travel” & Other Reports: click here.

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