Ontario pledges tourism support as sector languishes and summer looms

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The Ontario budget calls for $400 million in spending over the next three years on the tourism industry, on top of previously announced investments of $225 million in the sector, as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens a second summer.

Among the supports is $150 million toward a potential tax credit for Ontario residents that the government teased last year, which would apply to up to 20 per cent of certain tourism expenses in the province.

The government says it will introduce legislation for the tax credit once travel is safe. It will also offer free day-use entry to provincial parks on Monday through Thursday from May 1 to Sept. 2.

The budget says $100 million will be put toward grants for small tourism and hospitality businesses, such as hotels, travel agencies, camps and amusement parks.

The grant isn’t available to companies that got the Ontario Small Business Support grant, and recipients must have fewer than 100 employees and sales that dropped by at least 20 per cent.

Other proposals in the budget include $200 million for building and renovating sports and recreation centres, as well as funding amounts for regional tourism organizations, arts organizations, provincial park technology, hunting and fishing outfitters and wineries.