“It has been devastating”: more than half of Ontario’s tourism businesses have closed and some may never reopen

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Ontario’s tourism sector could be decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with well over half of all tourism businesses already temporarily closed and 16% likely to close permanently, according to new survey results.

The disastrous results provided to CBC News by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) come from about 1,180 surveys by businesses and workers across the province, ranging from small independent outlets like fishing outposts to biggest tourist attractions.

“The industry may not look like it was when we got out of it,” warned Beth Potter, President and CEO of TIAO.

According to the survey carried out between April 22 and 27, more than 60% of tourism businesses are temporarily closed and half of seasonal businesses will not be able to open during the summer season.

He also found that more than 80% of businesses would experience significant revenue loss over the next three months.

Of the businesses that remain open at the moment, half say they risk closing temporarily – and almost 16% of all tourism businesses say they risk closing permanently.

“Obviously, the tourism industry has been hit hard, they have been the first hit, and it looks like they will be the last to get out of it,” said Potter.

The survey also found that almost a quarter of respondents say they are not eligible for any of the current government assistance offers during a pandemic, including federal wage subsidies and rent assistance.

Tourism workers and employers “need these programs to be accelerated to avoid the permanent loss of tourism businesses, which will be essential to revitalizing Ontario’s economy,” noted the TIAO in its results d ‘investigation.

“Our whole business is closed”

Casa Loma is one of the tourist attractions in Toronto that is currently closed. The company operating the historic site closed it on March 13, just before the generally busy March break.

“It was devastating, of course. Our whole business is closed, “said Nick Di Donato, President and CEO of Liberty Entertainment Group.

While Di Donato ran a pivot for the establishment’s on-site take-out restaurant, he said that the lack of programming or events such as weddings means the place has already lost “millions and millions of dollars. “

Faced with a similar financial crisis, the Toronto Zoo turned to fundraising to close the gap. Parking revenues generally help cover the annual cost of about $ 1 million to feed about 5,000 animals, said zoo CEO Dolf DeJong.

“We were amazed when we raised half a million dollars to compensate for this,” he told CBC News. “It was great to see the support from the community. “

According to Tourism Toronto, the city will experience a drop of 120,000 business visitors from April to June as major events such as the Collision technology conference are canceled or postponed, depriving Ontario’s capital of about $ 250 million of expenses. (John Rieti / CBC)

$ 250 million loss

Canceling conferences and business conventions across the country is also costing cities hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue as the COVID-19 pandemic devastates the tourism industry.

According to Tourism Toronto, the city will experience a drop of 120,000 business visitors from April to June as major events such as the Collision technology conference are canceled or postponed, depriving Ontario’s capital of about $ 250 million of expenses.

“Currently we have hotels in the single digit occupancy range, borders are closed and orders for home stays, so visitor spending is effectively closed,” said Andrew Weir, vice president of development of marketing organization destinations.

Just last week, just 5,000 passengers arrived at Canadian airports from the United States, down 99% from the previous year, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.

The Hotel Association of Canada said that hotel occupancy rates were below 10% on average, causing more than 4,100 closings and 250,000 layoffs across the country – 83% of the workforce industry work.

“These are the people who open the doors and clean rooms and do everything that is so essential to make this stay memorable and enjoyable, so it is very difficult to see so many people affected like this,” said Weir.

Training effect

The ripple effect goes beyond the hotel sector to reach small businesses.

“Obviously, hotels and restaurants are touched in their hearts,” said Weir. “But the reality is that when meetings and conventions do not take place, it affects audiovisual companies, it affects transport companies, stage companies and artists, musical acts and professional MCs who are hired to host these events. “

About a quarter of the $ 10 billion in economic activity generated annually by tourism occurs in the second quarter, “almost everything” being lost now, he said.

Weir fears that pent-up demand from locals for restaurants, attractions and nightlife will help fuel a recovery once restrictions start to lift, travel mistrust has grown among potential tourists which could be difficult to shake in 2020.

“We have all been in our house for weeks and weeks, and it will be several months soon,” he said, “but the pace of getting to know the move and the flight is simply not known for the moment. “

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