On April 11, the provincial government tabled their first budget. In an effort to reduce the deficit, cuts were made across the board and tourism was not immune. The strong efforts of TIAO and stakeholders like you ensured that our industry is recognized as an important economic driver for Ontario. However, in order to continue to succeed, we will have to work more closely together than ever before.
Since its inception, Central Counties has relied almost entirely on provincial funding to deliver services and value to our stakeholders. In the last four or five years, we have seen a steady upswing in our relevance and contributions to the tourism economy in York, Durham and Headwaters. The biggest measure for us, aside from the hard tourism receipts, is the number of stakeholders who are actively engaged with Central Counties – strengthening our experiences, content and communications through their participation and taking advantage of the services we offer to grow their individual businesses and organizations.
Central Counties saw a 20% reduction in provincial funding for this year, which began on April 1. This was a standard reduction for 11 of the 13 RTO’s with Toronto and Ottawa realizing a 100% funding reduction. Destination Ontario (the provincial marketing organization) had their budget reduced by $5M.
For Central Counties, the 20% reduction translates to roughly $500,000. Instead of looking at this cut as a hardship, staff are looking at it as an opportunity to change the way we collectively invest to deliver economic impact directly back to your organization, community and region. Through co-investment and leveraged activities, we will work together to provide opportunities for businesses and communities to become more tourism ready, create destinations and tell their stories in an effort to bring more people and their money through their doors.
In the coming weeks, we will be reworking our business plan and budget to accommodate for the funding reduction. There is also a new Tourism Strategy being launched by the province later this spring which will most likely set some new directives and objectives for the RTO’s. As we solidify our plans for the coming year and learn more about the strategy, we will communicate the changes and opportunities to you. Change is never easy, but with the right mind-set and outlook it can be an exciting challenge and collectively make us stronger. Here is to exciting times!