Tourism tax credit will be very helpful, but businesses have to get to 2021 first: NOTL mayor

CKTB - News - Niagara Falls

The lord mayor of Niagara-On-The-Lake says while she's pleased the provincial budget has measures to boost internal Ontario tourism through a new tax credit, it'll still be a challenge to get to next year.

"We'll see now that we're in a quiet time again whether or not, the restaurants and accommodation facilities can make it through the winter," Betty Disero said.

The provincial budget includes a 20 per cent rebate for tourism expenses for travel within the province in 2021, something Disero said many in the tourism and hospitality sector have been pushing for months.

Similar programs have been introduced internationally, such as in the U.K., and domestically, such as in New Brunswick.

"That 20 per cent will make it the highest tourism tax credit of any of the provinces," Finance Minister Rod Phillips said Thursday. "We are there to support them and we will make, when it's safe, 2021 the year of the Ontario staycation."

Disero said after a major drop in economic activity due to initial impact of COVID-19 in the spring, things picked up in the summer, though it wasn't a 100 per cent recovery.

She said federal and provincial financial support programs will be critical over the coming months, before tourism picks up in 2021.

"Until we can take advantage of the rebates," she said.

Tony Elenis, President and CEO of the Ontario Hotel and Motel Association expects the rebate will have a significant impact, after what's been obviously a brutal half year for his sector.

"The transition from outdoor eating to indoor eating, without having events, without having conferences in meetings in hotels, that's having a tremendous impact," he said. "The industry is just hanging on a cliff right now."

He said the program will not only help traditional tourism spots and attractions, but he sees a path where large metropolitan centres can benefit as well.

"Downtown Toronto without conferences, without sports, without concerts and meetings is not doing very well," he said. "This is an opportunity for those 905ers and those outside the GTA to come back."