Ottawa Tourism getting $5.2M to help weather pandemic

The federal government will provide $5.2 million to Ottawa Tourism to help the city promote its beleaguered tourism industry. 

Local tourism sector stands to lose out on $1.4B this year, agency predicts

People pose for pictures with the Ottawa sign on York Street in the ByWard Market in June 2019. Ottawa Tourism will receive $5.2 million in federal funds to help promote tourism to the city this year. (CBC)

The federal government will provide $5.2 million to Ottawa Tourism to help the city promote its beleaguered tourism industry. 

The investment, announced Sunday by Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly, comes from a larger $213-million fund run by the regional development agency FedDev Ontario, which supports small- and medium-size businesses in the province. 

The funding marks a shift in the federal government's tourism promotion strategy toward encouraging Canadians to travel within the country as international borders remain largely closed due to COVID-19.

The funds will be disbursed through the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, which supports the province's tourism industry, and will "help it bring visitors back to the National Capital Region as the economy reopens," the government said in a news release.

"Our tourism sector and the 1.8 million people it employs across Canada have been hit hard by COVID-19, and we're here for them," said Joly. "During National Tourism Week, our message to the sector and those whose livelihoods depend on it is clear: we're working with you to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. We're working with you as our economy reopens so we can come back strong."

The tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic as international travel bans and border restrictions have choked off the flow of visitors to Canada.

In Ottawa, COVID-19 restrictions have forced the cancellation of a number of large events that attract tourists each year including Bluesfest, the Ottawa Jazz Festival, Ottawa Race Weekend and the annual Canada Day celebration.

The tourism sector employs 43,000 people locally and brought in around $2.2 billion in spending by visitors each year, according to a recent analysis by Ottawa Tourism. The agency estimates spending could decline this year by two-thirds, or $1.4 billion. 

A report by Destination Canada in April suggested the country's tourism sector could see total spending decline by about one-third from 2019 levels and result in the loss of about 263,000 jobs across the country, many of them associated with small- and medium-size companies.

The tourism industry adds $39.4 billion to Ontario's GDP and supports more than 820,000 jobs, the government said.

With files from the Canadian Press

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