Ontario government spends millions to boost tourism in Toronto

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The Ontario government will provide $7.3 million of COVID relief to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) as the facility waits for the green light to open.

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Tourism Minister Lisa MacLeod announced the funding along with $9 million to Destination Toronto to ensure it’s ready to attract more visitors when possible.

The minister has already agreed to provide $2 million to Ottawa’s convention centre and $6 million to Ottawa Tourism.

MacLeod said tourism “gateway” cities like Ottawa and Toronto have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic as many people chose to visit more remote and rural communities.

“Toronto and Ottawa are key tourism hubs,” MacLeod said Wednesday. “They are home to Ontario’s largest airports and convention centres … and we need them to be back on track and ready to accept not just leisure travellers, but business travellers, as well.”

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The provincial government’s roadmap to reopen allows for indoor meeting and event spaces with restrictions in Step 3 which is not scheduled to take effect until at least the third week of July.

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International visitors will be a critical part of the recovery, MacLeod said.

Although the federal government eased quarantine restrictions for the fully vaccinated, Canada and the U.S. have yet to completely open their shared border.

Prior to the pandemic, Ontario and Toronto were top destinations for tourists.

The Ontario government estimated that 393,000 jobs depended on tourism in 2018 — 5.3% of provincial employment.

The Doug Ford government’s 2021 budget allocated an estimated $100 million for a one-time Ontario Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant and $100 million for a new recovery program.

The MTCC has 77 exhibition halls, 77 meeting rooms, two ballrooms, and a 1,232-seat theatre located on Front St. W.

aartuso@postmedia.com

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