While a number of COVID-19 cases have been announced in Ontario since late January, the province’s minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries says it’s “too early to tell” whether the virus will affect local tourism over March break.
“According to Ontario Public Health and the ministry of health, we still remain at very low risk as Ontarians, and therefore our tourism industry still remains strong,” Lisa MacLeod, the province’s heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries minister, told Global News Monday.
“As we move into the March break…we’re just encouraging people to go on about their business.”
But COVID-19 has already affected people’s behaviours, according to Frederic Dimanche, the director of Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, who said Ontario’s tourism industry will see a drop in the future.
“I don’t think there is any destination in the world that will not see a drop,” Dimanche said.
“I think the decline for Ontario is going to be slower than in some other destinations…because Canada is still perceived to be a destination that is relatively safe.”
While the province’s tourism industry may decline slower than other places, Dimanche said the situation is fluid and could change quickly.
“There is already a slow-down in reservations to travel internationally,” he said.
“This may be an opportunity also for domestic travel. In other words, people from Canada, instead of going to the United States, instead of going to Italy or France at the moment, may be thinking about staying in their own country and visiting another province, such as Ontario.”
MacLeod said she’s convened a roundtable within her ministry to receive regular COVID-19 updates on how the virus could affect Ontario’s tourism industry.
“I’m urging people just to remain calm,” MacLeod said.
“Our big play in the ministry is to make sure that we are continuing to work with our public health partners, our tourism partners, as well as our federal government partners.”
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