Thunder Bay

Northwestern Ontario tourism rally draws hundreds

A weekend rally in support of northwestern Ontario tourism outfitters is being hailed as a success by organizers.

Rally called on government to provide financial support to region's tourism industry

Hundreds of people attended a rally in support of the northwestern Ontario tourism industry in Vermilion Bay on Saturday, organizers said. (Tourism Matters/Facebook)

A weekend rally in support of northwestern Ontario tourism outfitters is being hailed as a success by organizers.

Hundreds of people attended the Tourism Matters rally in Vermilion Bay on Saturday, said Steve Smith, owner of Sunset Country Adventures and one of the organizers of the rally.

The rally was part of a campaign to secure financial support from the government to help the region's tourism industry survive a season that's been decimated by COVID-19.

"We had a good attendance," Smith said, adding about 300 people attended, and all practiced physical distancing.

"We had a lot of float planes flying over to show support, we had cars honking all day," he said.

Smith said the region's tourism industry relies heavily on visitors from the U.S.

However, with the border closed due to COVID-19, regional tourism operators will lose more than half of this year's season.

Smith said the goal of the Tourism Matters campaign is to secure "meaningful assistance" from the government.

"Not loans, we don't want loans," he said. "Our industry pays a ton into the economy."

"We want to continue to do that, but we don't have any guests this year," Smith said. "We just want to survive one season so we can continue with what we've been doing for the last 100 years."

Smith said more rallies are possible.

"We're all willing to do it every weekend, if we have to," Smith said. "We're giving them some time now to hopefully want to work with us and try to find a solution to our problems."

Smith said Kenora-Rainy River MPPGreg Rickford, who is also the provincial minister of northern development, energy and mines, is expected to talk to organizers about the issue on Monday.

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