The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce (SSMCOC), in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), released new data that reveals a significant tourism opportunity gap when compared to international growth rates.
According to the organization's report, Closing the Tourism Gap: Creating a Long-Term Advantage for Ontario, the Province has foregone nearly $16 billion in visitor spending between 2006 and 2012 by not keeping up with global growth trends.
SSMCOC President Paul Johnson points out that Ontario’s tourism businesses and other members of the industry support over 360,000 jobs and generate over $25 billion in GDP.
In Sault Ste. Marie, tourism represents 4.5 per cent of total employment and a full 5 per cent of total municipal revenues, one of the highest rates of municipal revenues stemming from tourism in the province.
According to Johnson, “tourism plays a vital economic role in Ontario, and as a border community and a key point of entry into Canada, it is a cornerstone of our local economy.”
According to the report, a weaker Canadian dollar and relatively stable gas prices have allowed for a fairly strong year for tourism in Ontario, but it is important that steps are taken to ensure that recent growth is translated into long-term, sustainable gains in tourism visitation.
Rory Ring, CEO of the SSMCOC notes that the report makes several recommendations including the development of a government-wide Ontario tourism strategy and moving to a multi-year tourism marketing funding model which would allow for greater consistency and increase the effectiveness of marketing dollars.
It also calls on the government to work with tourism operators to reduce regulatory and other cost burdens and add tourism to the Province’s Red Tape Challenge, a consultation process currently being undertaken by the government into cutting potentially unnecessary regulations that cost Ontario’s businesses money and time.
Ring suggests that one of the compelling points brought out during the report’s consultation process is that over 90 per cent of tourism businesses have less than 20 employees and many are struggling with both high input costs and a skills gap.
They may in fact be facing the same obstacles experienced by SME’s [small and medium enterprises] in other sectors, but even more acutely.
“This reinforces the messaging that the Sault Chamber and Chambers from across the province have been focussed on throughout 2016. Our Small Business - Too Big To Ignore campaign calls on the Province to put plans firmly in place to deal with issues such as high energy costs, skills shortages and modernization of labour legislation,” he says.
To produce this report, the OCC convened a group of Ontario’s leading thinkers within the tourism community.
The report builds on previous initiatives undertaken by members of the tourism industry and further substantiates the need for a focused and measured approach targeted towards supporting the future of tourism in Ontario.
Ian McMillan, Executive Director of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie took part in the consultation process for the report.
“The Ontario Chamber of Commerce should be commended for bringing together a diverse group of tourism industry leaders to provide input for this important report,” McMillan says. “The findings and recommendations will provide a framework for the tourism industry in the coming years. I was pleased to be able to bring a Northern perspective to the process.”
“Ontario's tourism sector needs a dedicated strategy driven by the provincial government that not only promotes tourism within Ontario, but also focuses on drawing in visitors from around the world,” says Allan O’Dette, President and CEO of the OCC. “If we can do this successfully, the province will achieve substantial economic gains while keeping up with global growth trends.”
The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of 700 plus business and agencies in Sault Ste. Marie and has been serving the needs of this community since 1889.
The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce will lead the way as the voice of business, advancing economic prosperity for its membership and the business community.