As areas of the province moved into Phase two of Ontario’s reopening plan, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Lisa MacLeod has been visiting communities to promote local tourism. On Thursday, July 16, the Minister continued her tour with a stop at the Art Gallery of Hamilton where made an announcement to support local events and tourism.

Recognizing the need to encourage the organizations and businesses that depend on audiences to thrive and survive, the Minister announced that the Hamilton region will receive over $700,000 to assist its tourism sector in recovering from COVID-19, as the province continues reopening in stages.

“We’re going to make sure that we bring people from around the province back to this city next year,” The Minister said. “We want to make sure we’re in a position to be able to do that, and that’s why these investments today are so important.”

An investment of $350,000 will be “recommitted” in regional tourism through a partnership with Destination Ontario and Destination Canada. The program is designed to encourage Ontarians to explore their communities while travel is being limited.

At the announcement was the Hamilton Halton Brant Regional Tourism Association, who noted that the organization was forced to quickly shift their focus from Toronto and US markets to local audiences when the pandemic struck. The Association has since launched several campaigns, including one encouraging audiences within the region to “Stay and Play” and another for audiences outside the region, encouraging that its “Worth the Wait.”

An additional $376,000 will be invested into local festivals and events through the Celebrate Ontario program. The Minister specifically cited the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s film festival and Supercrawl in her announcement, both of which- like many arts organizations in the city- have had to change their approach and amend operations as part of their pandemic response.   

“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating to tourism and cultural attractions in the City of Hamilton,” Flamborough-Glanbrook MPP Donna Skelly acknowledged in a press release.

Funding will be invested between now and September 2021 to support event providers that have shifted their events due to the pandemic, and to promote local tourism and education on protocols that have emerged as a result of reopening, such as time limits on attractions.

The province previously announced the launch of Ontario Live; a virtual hub designed to promote organizations in the tourism, culture and sport sectors. The hub aims to connect Ontario-based artists, tourism operators, attractions and businesses with online audiences, regardless of where they may be situated.

The funding announcement was made on the same day that the Art Gallery reopened to the public following its closure since March. The Gallery is offering free admission for the remainder of the month of July.

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