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  • 13 Feb 2024 by Jessica Ng

    A little over two weeks ago, the federal government announced a reactionary policy to cap the number of international student permits, to be applied and weighted by international student population within individual provinces and territories. Along with this policy, the federal government announced eligibility changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program and eligibility changes for open work permits available to spouses of international students.  

     

    Given the significant representation of international students in Ontario tourism and hospitality postsecondary programs, the federal cap is expected to disproportionately impact the tourism and hospitality industry. International students and graduates are global assets to the tourism and hospitality workforce, ensuring that Ontario’s service economy can adeptly meet the needs of an increasingly global visitor market. 

     

    Since the announcement, TIAO has been engaging in rapid data collection to understand the anticipated tourism industry impacts of the policies, particularly the international student permit cap. According to the member survey we released, almost half of respondents reported that the federal cap on international student permits will affect or might affect their business, with members anticipating recruitment and retention to be more expensive or resource-intensive, not being able to hire for necessary positions, understaffing, and having to scale back services or offerings.  

     

    Consultations with TIAO’s post-secondary partners revealed anticipated impacts to tourism and hospitality programs, particularly for programs where international students comprise 50% or more of student enrolment – significantly higher than the University (17.6%) and College (22%) enrolment average in Canada during 2021-2022. With Ontario accounting for 70% of Canada’s international higher education enrolment, food and beverage, events, and other tourism and hospitality sectors that rely heavily on these programs to meet employment demand will be particularly hard-hit.  

     

    Using this data, TIAO released a comprehensive response this week to the federal cap on international student permits. We called for immediate consultation and collaboration between tourism stakeholders, the provincial government, and the federal government in order to assess impacts and develop a response plan to protect the viability of post-secondary tourism programs, the experience and opportunities for international students, and the short- and mid-term economic performance of the tourism industry.  

     

    We have called for urgent, collaborative solutions to: 

    • Enable tourism employers to competitively recruit and retain talent; 

    • Ensure that international students in-demand sectors like tourism and hospitality can access the jobs they have trained for;  

    • Build a stronger domestic pool of talent; and 

    • Ensure that the supply of attainable housing keeps up with the demand of Ontario’s population. 

     

    To read our press release and see our full list of recommendations, click here.  

     

    Thank you to members who participated in the survey; RTOs, DMOs, and sector associations for amplifying the survey to tourism operators; and many thanks to our postsecondary partners who shared their insights with us.  

     

    International students are a vital contributor to the province’s tourism industry. TIAO will continue to monitor the impacts of the federal cap and will be working with industry, provincial, and federal counterparts on immediate and longer-range solutions. 

     

    And in case you missed it, TIAO recently submitted its 2024 pre-budget submission, which you can find here. On top of a range of economic, labour, and infrastructure recommendations, we have called on the Province to work with tourism stakeholders to develop an Ontario tourism growth strategy – one that outlines clear goals to maximize the economic impact of our industry, solidifies our domestically and globally competitive position as a visitor destination, and contributes to sustainable tourism management and growth.  

     

    Join us on February 21st at 1pm (EDT) for a fireside chat with me and President & CEO Andrew Siegwart as we do a deep dive into our recommendations. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and share their experiences. Register here for this upcoming Forward Motion session.  

     

    Thank you for your continued support. And as always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to send me an email at jng@tiaontario.ca.

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD  

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs

    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 25 Jan 2024 by Andrew Siegwart

    The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), along with participating member organizations from across the province, convened with 15 Ministers, Parliamentary Assistants, and party leaders, including Minister Lumsden, at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference this week. The nature and timing of this event provided a robust platform for us to advocate key economic, labor, and infrastructure priorities necessary to mitigate risks and stimulate growth in the tourism industry for 2024. 

    In these meetings, TIAO approached the discussions by presenting focused solutions, showcasing our members' innovative problem-solving approaches, and seeking collaboration across multiple ministries to develop a new strategy for growing Ontario's tourism economy. We extend our gratitude to Minister Lumsden and his incredible team for their support and recommendations. 

    For more details on our key recommendations, please visit: https://silkstart.s3.amazonaws.com/db3cbfdc-a0ac-42f9-a44b-89f2008d8c9c.pdf 

    We express our appreciation to Camping in Ontario, Culinary Tourism Alliance, Destination Northern Ontario, Indigenous Tourism Ontario, Kingston Accommodation Partners, Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association, and OTEC for their support to the TIAO team and their efforts on behalf of all members. (Insert a nice photo from our meetings with Minister Lumsden). 

    The federal government has recently imposed a two-year cap on international student permit applications, anticipating around 360,000 approved study permits, reflecting a 35% decrease from 2023. Individual provincial and territorial caps, weighted by population, have been established, leading to more significant decreases in provinces like Ontario, which have historically welcomed a larger share of international students. 

    This decision, accompanied by several additional changes, will have substantial impacts on students, post-secondary schools, the labor market, and employers. We are actively engaging with member businesses and post-secondary schools across Ontario to assess the impact of these policy changes and to formulate meaningful and focused recommendations. 

    Please inform us of how your business will be affected by the international student permit cap by: 

     

    If you wish to learn more about the federal cap, please click here.

    Lastly, thank you to the TIAO team and membership for the warm welcome as I assume this exciting new role.  I eagerly anticipate connecting with members in the weeks and months to come, and I look forward to a strong 2024! 

     

    Sincerely, 

     

    Andrew Siegwart 

  • 18 Jan 2024 by Jessica Ng

    Today, January 18th, is the deadline for tourism businesses with CEBA or RRRF loans to repay most of their loan in order to have up to $20,000 forgiven. After today, CEBA and RRRF loans will start to incur 5 per cent interest with the full principal amount due at the end of 2026. Operators who secure refinancing have until March 28 to repay their loan while maintaining access to the forgivable portion. As we have advocated in meetings, submissions, letters, media appearances, alongside our partners, and in our 2022 State of the Ontario Tourism Industry Report: this is not enough.  

    Businesses who have been impacted by the slow return of key markets, high interest rates, inflation, rising commercial costs, the labour crisis, and dampened consumer sentiment need more time to generate the revenue required to pay down their debts. The absence of an extension will weigh heavily on the capacity of small tourism businesses to recover sooner and to take advantage of the opportunities to grow, thrive—and generate the tax revenues that support our economy, our social services, and help pay down the provincial and national debts.  

    We are disappointed that the federal government has not heeded our calls for much-needed debt relief. But we thank our partners for advocating alongside us, including the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. We also thank Premier Doug Ford and Minister Neil Lumsden for their advocacy on our industry’s behalf right up until today’s deadline.   

    Last week, I had the opportunity to talk about the debt and labour challenges that Ontario tourism businesses are still facing, and which have been exacerbated by the unseasonably warm weather we saw over the holidays. In case you missed my media appearances, you can find them at CityTV, CTV Barrie, and NEWSTALK 1010.  

    I also had the opportunity last week to present before the provincial Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. This was a valuable opportunity for TIAO to illustrate that while we are recovering and rebuilding, the economic contribution of our industry is still not quite where it needs to be. While we have regained the domestic visitor market, international numbers remain below pre-pandemic figures and behind some of our domestic competitors. The US market, for instance, is down 14 percent from 2019 and the Chinese market is still down 79 percent. As of last summer, convention bookings at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Ottawa Convention Centre alone were down by over 40 percent compared to 2019. For many local festivals and events, attendance and revenues have not returned to 2019 levels, with ongoing challenges in obtaining the required public and private funding. Inflation and the cost-of-living crisis have dampened consumer spending. And while rates have gone up, hotel occupancy is still down by 25 percent. Moreover, seasonal businesses have borne the brunt of climate change impacts, with summer wildfires and warm winter weather affecting the length of key tourism seasons and the perception of Ontario as a consistently reliable visitor destination. 

    In the Committee hearing, TIAO called for: provincial budgetary investments to attract major events and conventions, which will inject direct visitor dollars into local, regional, and provincial economies; the implementation of many recommendations outlined in the Auditor General’s report, including strategic regional planning to take destination marketing to the next level, recalibrating existing funding opportunities, better leveraging gateway cities and our convention centres, and developing a data strategy to guide local and regional tourism planning; and, ultimately, the need for a tourism strategy in partnership with our industry and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport—a strategy which will increase economic productivity for industry and for government.  

    Finally, TIAO will be attending the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference next week. With the support of our tourism delegation and led by our incoming President & CEO, Andrew Siegwart, TIAO will be advocating for a number of economic, labour, and infrastructure asks and building support around the Cabinet table for a provincial tourism strategy.  

    Three weeks into 2024 and TIAO’s advocacy is full steam ahead. 

    Thank you for your continued support. And as always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to send me an email at jng@tiaontario.ca   

      

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD  

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs 

  • 14 Dec 2023 by Jessica Ng

    With the holidays approaching, TIAO is wrapping up another busy year for tourism advocacy:  

    2023 was the first full year where we welcomed visitors back to Ontario since 2020. Economic recovery got off to an encouraging start with visitors resuming the travel plans that they had put on hold over the last few years. Our industry responded with compelling visitor experiences, competing with domestic and global destinations for a larger share of visitor spend. The message that we put forward time and again: Rediscover Ontario.  

    But not all markets were recovering to the same degree, with the US market still slow to return to Northern Ontario and events experiencing rising operational costs. Inflation, high interest rates, debt, and supply chain disruptions stymied recovery in most markets, with the rising cost of living and the housing crisis exacerbating challenges in recruitment, retention, and consumer travel sentiment.  

    While revenues and visitor numbers are improving, our industry continues to face new and ongoing challenges on the road to rebuilding. This is the message that we delivered to elected officials along with our tourism delegation at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference, before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs at Queen’s Park, the federal Ontario Liberal caucus, the federal Conservative tourism caucus, in our meetings with ministry officials, in media engagements, in events with stakeholders across Ontario, and alongside our TIAO members in our first in-person Tourism Day at Queen’s Park since pre-pandemic.  

    With tourism operators dealing with staggering debt – and even more so in Northern Ontario – 2023 marked 2 years of TIAO debt relief advocacy. This year, we joined our partners in a coalition led by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to call on the federal government to extend the interest-free repayment deadline/deadline to qualify for partial loan forgiveness for CEBA and RRRF loans. We lobbied our case to Minister Neil Lumsden, who advocated tirelessly on our industry’s behalf to deliver on debt relief for hard-hit operators. To our dismay, the federal government extended the deadline by a mere 18 days to January 18, 2024.  

    Meanwhile, we saw the release this year of the much-anticipated Federal Tourism Growth Strategy and subsequently the rollout of the $108 million Tourism Growth Program through the Regional Development Agencies. After TIAO and industry feedback, we welcomed the earlier launch of the Experience Ontario program to help deliver Ontario festivals and events in 2024. And today, we welcomed the pivotal announcement on the Master Framework Agreement and the expansion of the sale of beer, cider, wine, and low-alcohol beverages to convenience, grocery, and big box stores—a move driven by our partners at Ontario Craft Brewers, Ontario Craft Wineries, and Wine Growers Ontario to support the economic growth and competitiveness of Ontario’s wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries and the value they bring to visitor destinations across the province. 

    It is no surprise to us that there is a symbiotic relationship between a thriving tourism sector, the success of local businesses, and the strength our economy: When Ontario destinations attract more visitors, tourism and hospitality businesses benefit through direct spending that creates a positive ripple effect for other economic sectors and for local employment; government benefits through increased tax revenue generated from visitor spending and employment income—revenue which, in turn, can be put towards critical human services, community infrastructure, and to paying down the provincial and national debts.  

    When tourism does well, so does Ontario.  As we head into 2024, this is the message that we will deliver to government. As the provincial and federal governments pursue fiscal restraint, now is the time for government to invest in our industry. Now is the time to realize even greater return on tourism investment.  

    The TIAO office closes for the holidays tomorrow but before we do, a quick note of thanks to Minister Lumsden and our partners at the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport for their ongoing support, collaboration, and shared passion for the economic and intrinsic value of tourism in Ontario. We look forward to continued collaboration in the New Year to take Ontario’s tourism industry to new heights.  

    Of course, a heartfelt thanks goes out to Chris Bloore for his outstanding leadership at TIAO. Chris has been a staunch advocate of the industry and an unwavering source of support for so many operators during the darkest hours, leading our industry from standstill to a place of recovery and now rebuilding. With Chris’s departure, a definitive chapter at TIAO has closed and we begin a new one in 2024.  

    And as always, thank you to all our TIAO members for your continued support. Your feedback is valued and helps ensure that we are always representing the needs of the industry.  

    If you have any questions or comments, feel free to send me an email at jng@tiaontario.ca.   

    On behalf of TIAO, happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year. 

    Dr. Jessica Ng

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs

    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

     

     

  • 30 Nov 2023 by Chris Bloore

    I’m not great at goodbyes, but today is my last working day at TIAO, and my final day has fallen on a Thursday to give me one more chance to write to you all and share my thoughts. I want to start with a simple thank you – thank you to those that would often write back to these remarks with your feedback, questions, concerns, or simply with a ‘keep going!’. Whether it’s been via email, our virtual town halls, or meeting in person at one of our events it’s been a pleasure to interact and learn from you all.  

    Last month in Mississauga, at the Ontario Tourism Summit, I hinted at my deep frustration at the standstill we’ve reached. We have all worked so hard to get through the pandemic – not only to survive it – but to lay the foundations of a recovery amidst the perfect storm of rising interest rates, spiraling inflation, a broken supply chain, and geopolitical uncertainty. We came together to build a roadmap to recovery and to finally realise our potential and the growth we all know could lead to new jobs and greater economic prosperity. Yet many of these ideas and practical solutions are still only ink on paper and have not been put into practice. 

    We need governments at all levels to collaborate with us as we come to a critical point in our future. As we tackle some of the most pressing challenges, we’ve faced we can redefine what the future of tourism in Ontario will look like.  Across the world ambitious governments are investing in their tourism sectors and seizing the opportunity to reap the economic, health, social, and cultural benefits that it brings. In destinations across the world there is a shared understanding that tourism is the driver of culture for visitors and locals alike – it brings people together in unforgettable experiences that engage body, mind, and soul. As we face ever more complex challenges tourism continues to be the forum where we remind ourselves and others who we are – as individuals, peoples, and nations.   

    I know that the next President and CEO of TIAO, with your support and a talented and dedicated TIAO team, will break the logjam and grasp the opportunities that are there for the taking.  I now return to the UK both with an enlarged personal family and as a permanent member of the Ontario tourism family. I will be rooting for you all from across the pond and I know that if the past four years are any indication, you will yet again blaze a trail for others to follow. 

    It’s been an honour.  

  • 28 Nov 2023 by Chris Bloore

    Despite the ongoing pressures on small businesses in the tourism sector I was disappointed – if not surprised – that the Fall Economic Statement contained no new measures to support small businesses. This is despite consensus among business and association leaders on the need for changes to the CEBA loan repayment schedules for which they have been long advocating. The government didn’t deliver on any meaningful time extensions to ensure businesses can take advantage of the forgivable portions of the loans especially when we’re living through these volatile economic times. With high interest rates and inflation combining with ever increasing costs, a labour crisis, and a disrupted supply chain this would have been the perfect time to give small businesses some more breathing room in repayments without penalties.  

    In better news the Federal Tourism Minister, the Hon. Soraya Martinez Ferrada, announced the launch of the Tourism Growth Program (TGP). With $108 million in federal funding the TGP will be delivered by Canada’s seven regional development agencies over three years, starting in 2023-24. We’ve already received several inquiries from members about the criteria of the program and we’re pleased that FedDev and FedNor will be hosting webinars shortly to answer all questions TIAO members may have.  

    Finally, as a reminder if you have not already put forward your ideas on what TIAO should include in our provincial budget consultation then please don’t hesitate to do so. Over the past three years we’ve been successful in winning economic packages and regulatory changes that helped mitigate some of the worst impacts of the pandemic. However, as we edge closer to a recovery these gains have not been secured. We need to ensure that we’re pressing governments at all levels to take the next steps to empower the tourism industry to be competitive and to reach growth targets. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please reach out to Dr. Jessica Ng at jng@tiaontario.ca or Alexander Miceli at amiceli@tiaontario.ca. 


    Chris Bloore
    President & CEO
    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 16 Nov 2023 by Alexander Micelli

    From Tuesday, November 14th to 16th, TIAO had the privilege of participating in the Northern Ontario Tourism Summit in Sault Ste Marie. Dr. Jessica Ng and Carol Greenwood delivered a presentation updating attendees on our advocacy efforts for tourism in Northern Ontario, emphasizing our key focus areas: economic recovery, labour, economic development and regulatory reform, and infrastructure. 

    During our presentation, we highlighted our objectives to extend the CEBA and RRRF repayment period, allowing for partial loan forgiveness until December 31st, 2025; the labour crisis in Northern Ontario, including the impact of Transport Canada anti-fatigue regulations on exacerbating the pilot shortage; and the need to expand provincial EV charging infrastructure in rural and remote areas. Additionally, we discussed our continued advocacy alongside our Northern partners for tourism revenue tools tailored for Northern and remote regions to amplify tourism marketing and product development in destinations located on crown land, in unorganized townships, or beyond municipal boundaries. 

    Concluding our session, we delved into upcoming trends and opportunities in the tourism sector – including opportunities to expand outdoor and nature-based tourism and agritourism – and current and upcoming programs and events at TIAO.  

    In addition, Destination Northern Ontario passed a resolution to provide their utmost support to help alleviate homelessness as well as addiction and mental health challenges across Northern Ontario. The resolution was accompanied with an acknowledgment of the economic impact of homelessness and the need to directly address it for the full recovery and future growth of the tourism sector.  

    The Northern Ontario Tourism Summit (NOTS) was a great opportunity to reconnect with our partners at NOTO and Destination Northern Ontario, meet many of our Northern tourism stakeholders, and hear the latest issues and updates in Northern Ontario tourism. We look forward to NOTS 2024!  

     

     



    Alexander Miceli 
    Manager of Policy and Government Affairs
    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 02 Nov 2023 by Jessica Ng

    Today, the Government of Ontario released its Fall Economic Statement. Some key highlights include:  

    • Proposing to extend the current gas tax and fuel tax rate cuts, keeping the rates at 9 cents per litre until June 20, 2024.  

    • Proposing to remove the provincial portion of the HST on new purpose-built rental housing through the Ontario Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) New Residential Rental Property Rebate.    

    • Providing an additional $100M to the Invest Ontario Fund to help attract more leading companies to Ontario.  

    • Creating a new arms-length agency called the Ontario Infrastructure Bank to invest in large-scale infrastructure projects across the province and to attract institutional investors to help build critical infrastructure.  

    • Investing $200M over three years in a new Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund that will protect communities and help unlock new housing opportunities. This complements the recently-announced $1.2B Building Faster Fund to support municipalities achieve their housing targets. 

    The Ministry of Finance reiterated its intent to undertake a review of the Province’s tax system to support the competitiveness and long-term growth of Ontario businesses.  

    The Fall Economic Statement also outlined a gradual growth in government program expenses through to 2026, with healthcare, education, and postsecondary education sectors to receive increases in budget.  

    The Ministry of Finance forecasts that Ontario will face a longer path to fiscal balance than projected in last spring’s budget, as high interest rates and inflation put pressure on the province’s economy. While unemployment remains low, with employment up 1% since April, projections for growth and job creation have been revised downward. The projected deficit for this year has increased to $5.6 billion, up from $1.3 billion in March, with Ontario expected to get back to balance in 2025-2026, with a projected $500-million surplus.  

    Over the next few days, we will review the details of the Fall Economic Statement in greater depth. 

    Please note that the Ontario Government will be launching the 2024 Budget Consultation platform and online survey on November 13, 2023. You can share your feedback and ideas by January 31, 2024. 

    Thank you for your continued support. And, of course, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to send me an email at jng@tiaontario.ca  

     

    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD 

    Director, Policy & Government Affairs 

  • 26 Oct 2023 by Chris Bloore

    The pack-up is well underway this morning at the Hilton Toronto Airport as we reflect on two content-rich days and a wonderful evening celebrating the achievements of our industry at the Ontario Tourism Awards of Excellence. As we reflected on the progress of the past twelve months, a phenomenal 561 delegates joined us and our host, Tourism Mississauga, and we look forward to the future with optimism and confidence. We firmly banished the memory of our virtual only summit from a socially distanced studio in Mississauga three years ago. 

    The lineup of speakers this year helped to address the state of the tourism sector in Ontario on Day One, discussing the challenges and obstacles to growth and then looking to the future and new opportunities on Day Two. 

    I was also delighted that the federal Minister for Tourism: The Honourable Soraya Martinez Ferrada, and Ontario Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport: The Honourable Neil Lumsden, and Leader of the Official Opposition in Ontario: Marit Stiles, were able to address delegates about their vision for the future of tourism. At a time when TIAO is working diligently to put forward pragmatic solutions to the challenges we face, it is critical that we build consensus and support across all political parties across all levels of government. 

    It is impossible to come away from Mississauga without feeling the growing sense of momentum behind Ontario’s Tourism industry. One of the most impactful elements of the summit has always been its unmatched ability to bring people together, to spark collaboration, and inspire. I know from the feedback from delegates with whom I spoke, that the appetite for working together is stronger than ever. Next year we will be celebrating campaigns and programs inspired by the presentations given at the summit, in addition to the meaningful conversations at networking breaks or even the connections made at Club Ontario.

    The Ontario Tourism Summit could only be made possible thanks to the kind support of our sponsors and partners that help make such a compelling event. We are incredibly grateful for your continued support. In the coming days the reordered sessions from the summit that we were able to secure with the permission of their respective presenters, will be made available to watch on our conference app and later our website.

    Finally, I would be remiss not to say how touched I was by the kind comments regarding my departure from TIAO at the end of the year. It really does mean the world to me, and I could never have imagined such a response. 

    Normal service will resume in our newsletter next week as we start the process of engaging with members on TIAO’s Ontario Provincial Budget priorities.

    Sincerely,

    Christopher Bloore

    President and CEO

    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario 

  • 19 Oct 2023 by Alexander Micelli

    The Ontario government will release its annual Fall Economic Statement on November 2, 2023. Afterward, starting from November 6, Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy, along with his Parliamentary Assistants Stephen Crawford and Rick Byers, will attend a series of in-person townhall meetings in various communities across the province until January 2024. They aim to gather insights and ideas from organizations and businesses for the 2024 Budget. 

    TIAO will be submitting a response for the provincial pre-budget consultation and is eager to hear your input and concerns. We encourage you to share your comments with TIAO, and we will diligently advocate to ensure the government prioritizes the tourism sector’s needs. This is your chance to have a say in the Ministry’s plans for the upcoming year. Send your ideas to Alexander Miceli, Manager of Policy and Government Affairs, at amiceli@tiaontario.ca  

    You can also share your thoughts through a guided online survey, a new online submission portal, or by mailing your feedback to the Ministry of Finance. Please access the following link to learn more about how to submit your ideas directly to the Ministry. 

     

    Alexander Miceli 
    Manager of Policy and Government Affairs
    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

     

  • 12 Oct 2023 by Chris Bloore

    In yet another busy week for the TIAO Team, we’ve continued to meet with MPPs to discuss the continuing challenges that businesses in our sector are facing during Tourism Day at Queen’s Park on September 26th. We regret that some MPPs were unable to attend and look forward to future collaboration.  

    In recent days TIAO has met with MPPs Adil Shamji, Jennifer French and Joel Harden to share with them the issue of the increasing costs of operation facing businesses in the current economic climate. In addition, we discussed the continuing significant decline in visitors compared to pre-pandemic levels.  

    During our meeting with MPP Shamji, we emphasized the need for affordable and attainable housing across many regions in Ontario, so the workers in our industry can sustain their employment. We also discussed the viability of tourism as a career option for both our international and domestic students. 

    In another meeting with MPP French, we also had a productive discussion about the growing need for EV infrastructure and expanding the electrical grid in rural Ontario and remote communities. 

    As we draw closer to the Ontario Tourism Summit, we know how important it is to continue to share crucial information with our elected representatives and give them a snapshot of what is happening in their communities across the province. One of those critical issues we highlight is the significant levels of debt still facing tourism businesses, plus the fast-approaching deadlines for repayment to ensure government forgiveness. As many of you already know, whilst the government announcement on extending payment deadlines was welcomed, it did not address the crucial issue of loan forgiveness. 

    As tourism ministers from across Canada come together to meet the new Federal Minister in St. John’s, I am grateful to the Hon. Neil Lumsden, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport in Ontario, for continuing to raise the issue of debt repayment with the Federal Government. Minister Lumsden and his team are using data collected by TIAO and our provincial counterparts in partnership with TIAC to illustrate why businesses need more substantial mitigating steps to be taken. 
     


    Chris Bloore
    President & CEO
    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario

  • 05 Oct 2023 by Alexander Micelli

    Earlier this week, TIAO participated in the Labour Market Forum in Ottawa, which ran from October 3rd to the 4th. The event, hosted by Philip Mondor, President and CEO of Tourism HR Canada, featured an impactful address and fireside chat with the Hon. Soraya Martinez Ferrada, Minister of Tourism and Minister Responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. During her speech, the Minister emphasized the vital role that tourism will play in Canada's economy over the next decade and the need for effective policy solutions to support this sector.

    Throughout the forum, we engaged in discussions on several crucial topics. These included addressing mental health challenges in the workplace, particularly within the tourism industry, as well as strategies for nurturing the Indigenous workforce to further enhance the burgeoning Indigenous tourism sector.

    Additionally, we tackled pressing issues such as the housing crisis, labor shortages, and the necessity for immigration reform within the tourism industry. Kate Monk and James Murphy from Explorers Edge shared insights into Co-Creation Labs, while Aaron Binder from Better Way Alliance stressed the importance of increased investment in tourism businesses and operators. This investment aims to facilitate their cost-effective expansion and long-term profitability. The Co-Creation  Labs concept was discussed as a practical tool for engaging stakeholders and developing regenerative programs to assist struggling tourism businesses within rural communities. The forum concluded with a discussion on Canadians' positive perception of the tourism industry, highlighting the significance of maintaining this favorable view through active support for the communities frequented by tourists and addressing their specific needs. In addition, Tourism HR Canada proudly announced its commitment to the 2030 Pledge for Sustainable Tourism, further reinforcing its dedication to fostering responsible and sustainable practices within the tourism.

  • 02 Oct 2023 by Chris Bloore

    This week signalled the return of TIAO’s in person ‘Tourism Day’ at Queen’s Park and our popular ‘Taste of Ontario’ reception held in partnership with the Culinary Tourism Alliance. A welcome return to the Legislature for the first time since 2019.

    On Monday evening we welcomed MPPs and their staff to sample some of the best food and beverages that Ontario has to offer. Each vendor was a member of the ‘Feast On’ program – North America’s largest and longest running local food certification program that recognizes businesses across the food tourism value chain, committed to sourcing Ontario grown food & drink. It was fantastic to bring people together again and give our delegation the opportunity to meet with elected representatives and their staff and to share their experiences. We enjoyed discussing how the challenges facing our industry have evolved since the pandemic in an informal atmosphere.

    The following day, forty delegate representing the tourism industry held more than twenty meetings with government ministers, opposition leaders, and MPPs from all political parties to discuss the current state of the tourism industry in Ontario. As detailed in my column last week, our message was loud and clear: despite the significant progress we have made as an industry to undo the damage caused by the pandemic, tourism businesses now face a perfect storm of high inflation and interest rates, costly disruptions to the supply chain, rising fuel prices, an acute labour crisis, and a cost-of-living crisis that is affecting the consumer sentiment of both domestic and international travellers.

    Just this week Destination Canada released detailed statistics that show that in July 2023 Canada welcomed 2.8 million monthly visitors – an increase of 34% over July of the previous year, which brought July arrivals up to 82% of pre-pandemic levels. Therefore, not only are businesses facing much higher costs, but they are also still missing one in five visitors from pre-pandemic levels.

    From the issue of debt to the labour crisis, economic development and regulatory reform, to infrastructure and transportation, we continue to put forward common-sense and pragmatic solutions to support the industry.  In the coming days we will both review the feedback from our delegates and examine every opportunity for collaboration with the MPPs with whom we met on Tuesday and those that have arranged meetings for the coming days. 

    The TIAO team would like to thank those elected members and their staff for meeting with us as well as our delegation for their commitment and diligence in their advocacy to support the tourism industry in Ontario.

     

     

     

  • 21 Sep 2023 by Chris Bloore

    Last week the Federal government announced some changes to the timelines of the repayment of CEBA loans. If you missed the announcement, then see TIAO's write up here and come back to this report in a moment! 

    Caught up? Let’s get back into it. 

    So, let's set the scene, since March 2020 we’ve had lockdowns, closed borders and severe restrictions on operations.

    As we’ve navigated ourselves out of a global health pandemic, the same businesses that have been so severely affected now face a perfect storm of high inflation and interest rates, costly disruptions to the supply chain, rising fuel prices, an acute labour crisis and a cost-of-living crisis that is affecting the consumer sentiment of domestic and international travellers.

    With all that to consider, loans from the government through the CEBA program are now set for repayment if you want to secure the forgivable part of your loan.  

    We know that many TIAO members are struggling to meet the repayment deadlines to ensure they receive up to $20,000 in loan relief. We know thanks to a study commissioned into the debt being carried by tourism businesses by TIAC, TIAO and our provincial counterparts and because of the conversations we’ve had with our members since last week’s announcement. 

    Whilst of course we’re pleased that we’ve helped to secure another extension to the final repayment date of the loans, and we thank the government for this, we’re disappointed that the time frame around the forgivable part of the loan has not been meaningfully extended.  Simply put, the catalogue of economic pressures on businesses has not gone away and in many cases is increasing

    TIAO will continue to work alongside our provincial association colleagues and TIAC to continue to reemphasize the real ongoing challenges faced by our members with debt and many other files. One of those opportunities will happen next week as we complete our preparations for ‘Tourism Day at Queen’s Park’. 

    Our annual lobby day has been supplemented in recent years by our delegation to ROMA and AMO conferences. However, ‘Tourism Day at Queen’s Park’ is still the most significant opportunity for us to speak directly with MPPs from all parties, in and out of government and those with significant tourism activity within their riding.  We will lead a delegation of over forty members to meet with elected representatives, their staff and civil servants to give them a clear picture of the challenges that our members face daily and how working cross party and with Federal government colleagues we can help alleviate these pressures. 

    I would like to thank those members that will join us next week for giving up their time to advocate on behalf of the tourism industry and recognize the many members that registered to join us but are unable to because of capacity limitations. I am hopeful for a productive day of meetings, and we will of course update you with the outcome of the day in next week's newsletter.

    Finally, yesterday was a tough day for many Canadians, as images of protests and counter-protests filled streets across Canada.  TIAO is proud to be rainbow registered and is committed to providing a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for the 2SLGBTQI+ community. We believe the tourism industry is stronger when it is diverse and inclusive, and we stand with the Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of 2SLGBTQI+ community members. Please visit Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC)for educational resources for your business or organization.

    As ever, this newsletter can only offer a snapshot of the work of the TIAO team. If you have any questions or would like to raise an issue with a member of the team, please don't hesitate to get in contact.


    Chris Bloore
    President & CEO, TIAO

  • 14 Sep 2023 by Jessica Ng

    Over the past couple of years, Canada has seen far fewer Chinese visitors than normal due to pandemic-related restrictions. The Chinese government has been gradually lifting its ban on group travel to international destinations for a number of countries, including the US and UK, allowing Chinese and online travel agencies to book group tours and packages for Chinese visitors. However, Canada continues to be left off this list. 

    TIAO is aware of the local economic impact that this is continuing to have on tourism operators that depend on the Chinese visitor market, which is normally a major contributor to visitor spend in the Ontario and Canadian tourism economy. Chinese visitors tend to stay longer, significantly boosting visitor spending: In 2019, Chinese visitors spent approximately $2 billion in Canada (averaging $2,900 per trip and staying for an average of 44 nights). In 2019, Chinese visitors spent $739 million in Ontario alone.  

    However, since the ban, economic data indicates a 44% decrease in Chinese visitor spending in Ontario in 2022 compared to 2019, with even steeper declines of 73% observed in Ottawa and Countryside. Local attractions heavily dependent on tour group business, such as Yorkdale Mall, have suffered, with group-related retail sales virtually disappearing. Acknowledging and addressing the undeniable economic impact of China’s group travel ban on Canada are critical for our tourism industry and overall economy. TIAO has written to Minister Martinez Ferrada, the new federal Minister of Tourism, about this issue and are actively working with our federal partners. You can view our letter here

    As always, thank you for your continued support. And of course, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email at jng@tiaontario.ca.  

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    Dr. Jessica Ng, PhD 
    Director, Policy & Government Affairs 
    Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) 

  • 24 Aug 2023 by Chris Bloore

    We’re pleased to share our recent strides in advocating for Ontario’s vibrant tourism industry at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference this year. AMO is the premier representative group for Ontario’s 444 municipalities that advocates for beneficial policy and legislation to all levels of government. TIAO, alongside our dedicated delegation, recently engaged with key members of the Ontario government to address the vital concerns within our sector. Our delegation consisted of: 

    1. David MacLachlan, Executive Director, Destination Northern Ontario 
    2. Andrew Siegwart, President, Blue Mountain Village Association 
    3. Richard Anderson, Executive Director, Smart Serve Ontario 
    4. Kerri King, Executive Director, Resorts of Ontario 
    5. Krista LeClair, Executive Director, Kingson Accommodation Partners 
    6. Rick Layzell, CEO, Boating Ontario 
    7. Adam Morrison, President and CEO, Ontario Tourism Education Corporation 
    8. Sherry Mayer, VP of Operations, Indigenous Tourism Ontario 
    9. Rebecca Cabral, Public Affairs Manager, Camping in Ontario 

    Our appreciation goes out to Ministers Neil Lumsden, Graydon Smith, David Piccini, Caroline Mulroney, Greg Rickford, Attorney General Doug Downey and Parliamentary Assistants Trevor Jones, Rob Flack, and Todd McCarthy. These discussions allowed us to openly tackle the urgent needs and challenges with which the tourism industry is currently grappling.

    We extended our conversations to include members from the Ontario Liberal and NDP caucuses, along with MPP Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario. We’d also like to express our gratitude to the mayors and councillors who took the time to visit our booth and discuss the outlined issues below. This collaborative support ensures that the concerns of the tourism industry remain in the spotlight during policy deliberations. 

    Key Takeaways from the Conversations: 

    • Nature Tourism: Increasing the appeal of Ontario’s natural tourism was a core focus in our discussions. The value of afforestation and expanding greenspaces took prominence, alongside the need to build climate resilience and nurture partnerships between tourism operators and Ontario Parks. 
    • Housing: We delved into the critical issue of housing, a crucial factor exacerbating the labour shortages within our industry. The focus was on attainable housing solutions, urging government investment in affordable options to create a balanced living-work environment. 
    • Addressing the Labour Crisis: The pressing issue of labour shortages within the industry got significant attention, compelling us to explore practical solutions to attract and retain a skilled workforce. 
    • Indigenous Tourism: These discussions focussed on the great contribution of Indigenous tourism to Ontario’s economy. We discussed promoting and investing in this vital sector, enhancing its role within the broader tourism landscape. 
    • Unlocking Rural Potential: Acknowledging the unique challenges faced by rural and remote tourism operators, we championed the need for robust transportation infrastructure. This includes expanding local air connections and establishing enhanced rural bus routes to foster seamless community access. 
    • EV File: Addressing the coming 2035 gas-powered vehicle ban, TIAO emphasized the impacts on tourism operators. While supporting eco-friendly initiatives, we stressed the need for a comprehensive grid expansion covering rural areas combined with an efficient EV charging network.  

    These dialogues demonstrate TIAO’s dedication to real, practical solutions that help the tourism industry in Ontario grow steadily. We’re dedicated to supporting your needs and guiding the industry towards a successful future. 


    Chris Bloore
    President & CEO, TIAO

  • 03 Aug 2023 by Chris Bloore

    As detailed in last week's newsletter, applicants to the Experience Ontario grant program administered by the Ontario government have started to receive notification of the status of their applications.  

    Unlike the increased financial envelopes during the pandemic period, the total amount of funding available was $19.5 million. TIAO understands that this year there were over 600 applicants with requests for funding totaling nearly three times the available funding. 

    TIAO is currently undertaking a survey in partnership with our colleagues at Festivals and Events Ontario and the Canadian Live Music Association. This survey intends to build a clearer picture of the results of the program and help shape our feedback back to government. So please, even if you were successful in your application, please take the survey here, so we can ensure we can build an accurate picture of the results of the program.  

    As many of you will know already, TIAO has been calling for a return to pre-pandemic timelines for festival and event grant funding. It is imperative that we get back to a system that gives the proper time needed for festivals and event planners to properly budget and plan for their events. TIAO has been assured by the government that this is a priority for them for next year's program and will work collaboratively with them to ensure this is delivered.  

    Thanks to the combined advocacy efforts of TIAO and our industry partners, the Ministry of Transportation has adjusted the timing of lane closures on the Burlington Skyway that was hampering the ability of visitors to travel to the Niagara region. The closures were originally set to start every Friday at 6:30 p.m. with full closures at 8:00 p.m. and now have been moved to 10 p.m. on Fridays to 10 a.m. on Saturdays. This will allow more time for visitors to finish work and travel to Niagara. We thank the Niagara Falls Canada Hotel Association, the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association and our partners at the Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport for their prompt collaboration in implementing an effective alternative solution. This will provide support for visitation during Niagara’s peak season and its first full year of tourism since 2019.  

    The deadline for submissions to the Federal pre-budget consultation period is fast approaching and in cooperation with TIAC, TIAO has put forward our own submission that builds upon national priorities and those recommendations found in TIAO’s ‘State of the Ontario Tourism Industry’ report. If you’re still intending to submit your own recommendations, you can do so by clicking here and the deadline is 23:59 EDT on August 4. 

    Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and of course please do contact the TIAO team if you have any questions or queries. Don’t forget, tickets are now available for the Ontario Tourism Summit in Mississauga this October, and you can buy your tickets here.   


    Christopher Bloore
    President & CEO, TIAO

  • 27 Jul 2023 by Chris Bloore

    The breaking news yesterday centered around a major reshuffle of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet. In what many political commentators have interpreted as a prelude to a possible general election within the next twelve months, there were several appointments that affected the tourism industry. Among the many changes was the news that Minister Randy Boissonnault would become the new Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages and Soraya Martinez Ferrada would become the new Minister of Tourism.

    Since his elevation to the cabinet in October of 2021, Minister Boissonnault has been a strong champion of the tourism industry and played a critical role in ensuring that the hardest hit sectors, including tourism, received continued economic support as we slowly emerged from the pandemic.

    TIAO thanks Minister Boissonnault for his support of tourism during these most unprecedented and difficult times and we look forward to working with him in his new portfolio to take the steps necessary to create a sustainable workforce for the tourism industry. We are also delighted to welcome Minister Martinez Ferrada to her new role as Minister of Tourism and we look forward to working with her and our national partner TIAC to maximize opportunities for growth for tourism.

    Minister Martinez Ferrada was first elected in 2019 to represent the Hochelaga riding in Quebec, she has previously served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion (Housing), Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Minister Martinez Ferrada also served on the City of Montréal’s Executive Committee as the Associate Advisor for Culture and from 2015 to 2018 as a city councillor. She also served as Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

    Minister Martinez Ferrada joins Cabinet at a critical time for the tourism industry as the severity of the debt crisis continues to provoke deep concern. That is why in our introductory letter to our new minister, after offering our congratulations, reaffirmed our calls for action on the spiraling debt crisis that continues to deeply restrict our ability to recover. At the start of the week 250 business leaders and organizations, including TIAO, sent a letter to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland asking for immediate action to alleviate concerns. You can read that letter here and coverage of the coalition of businesses including TIAO, TIAC, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and Restaurants Canada amongst others here.

    Finally, we’re pleased to hear that applicants to the Experience Ontario 2023 program for festivals and events have started to receive confirmation from the provincial government on whether their applications have been successful. Of course while pleased that this program is being rolled out, TIAO is committed to returning the timescale for these grants back to their pre-pandemic timeline. It is vital that we give organizers the most time to plan, schedule and deliver successful events. We look forward to working with government officials to make this a reality in 2024.

    Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and of course please do contact the TIAO team if you have any questions or queries. Don’t forget, tickets are now available for the Ontario Tourism Summit in Mississauga this October, and you can buy your tickets here.


    Christopher Bloore
    President & CEO, TIAO

  • 20 Jul 2023 by Chris Bloore

    Last week's advocacy update focused on the findings of a Nanos research report commissioned by TIAC and provincial tourism associations including TIAO into the impact of debt on tourism businesses. The report, which TIAO members graciously took part in demonstrated the severe and widespread problems that debt is posing to our industry. So much so that 45% of tourism businesses are at risk of closure due to debt levels.

    TIAO has used this data to write to all of Ontario’s 121 Federal Members of Parliament to urge them to alleviate the debt crisis that continues to hamper the full recovery of the tourism industry. You can read the letter we’ve sent to every MP, here, and we would urge all TIAO members, with strong links to their local MP, to urge him or her to raise this critical issue with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.  TIAO also continues to work with national business and sector associations to bring together national coalitions of support behind our call for action, and we are determined to win further concessions to support our members.

    TIAO has joined a new coalition of organizations calling for Ontario to undertake a new property tax reassessment and return to a regular assessment cycle in line with other provincial governments. The coalition includes the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), BOMA Toronto, Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), Canadian Property Tax Association (CPTA), NAIOP Greater Toronto, Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA), Toronto Financial District BIA and REALPAC have written to Premier Ford calling on him to take action and provide certainty for businesses and investors. You can read that letter by clicking here.

    On Friday July 21st, TIAO will join TIAC in a meeting with ISED officials to discuss recent funding announcements from the federal budget. Many TIAO members have enquired with us about how monies distributed to regional development agencies and Destination Canada will be used, and we’re hopeful that this meeting will supply some guidance on this. We have also collected as much feedback as possible from members on the delivery of earlier federal programs, so that we can learn lessons to help federal officials ensure future programs are as efficient and as effective as possible.

    In an update to last week's report on the negative impacts caused by the weekly closure of the Burlington Skyway Bridge for maintenance: We’re pleased that that the provincial government moved to cancel last weeks scheduled repairs and discussions are still underway with MTO to find an alternate solution that enables essential repairs to be undertaken but also doesn’t detrimentally affect tourism businesses.

    Preparations for TIAO’s tourism delegation to the Assocation of Municipalities of Ontario Conference (AMO) are well underway and we’ve already secured several meetings with Ministers, economic development officers and locally elected officials who are attending the conference in London. If you’re planning to attend AMO, please do come and visit the TIAO booth on the trade floor to learn more about our key advocacy goals and our work with municipalities.

    We're excited to announce TIAO's newest team member, Alexander Miceli! As the Manager of Policy and Government Affairs, Alexander holds valuable government and stakeholder relations skills, along with his extensive background in knowledge management and advanced research methods. Previously, he was the Stakeholder Relations Advisor at the Associate Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and got his start in politics as a researcher in the Ontario Legislative Assembly. With both a Master of Information and an Honours B.A. in Political Science from the University of Toronto, Alexander brings a strong passion for political advocacy and research to his role.

    Finally, thank you to those members that have already signed up for Tourism Day at Queen’s Park. Exclusive to TIAO Members, Tourism Day at Queen’s Park, happening on Tuesday, September 26th (8-5PM), is TIAO’s annual lobby day event at the provincial legislature. One of the association’s most highly rated events and membership benefits, TD@QP allows tourism industry leaders and stakeholders valuable face time with MPPs, Ministers and other government officials and staff.  Read more and register below.

    As ever, this is only a snapshot of the work that the TIAO team is currently undertaking, and we appreciate your feedback and input on ongoing and new challenges or issues of concern. If you would like to speak to a member of the TIAO team or know more about some of the issues we’ve referred to in this newsletter, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.


    Chris Bloore
    President & CEO, TIAO

  • 13 Jul 2023 by Madison Simmons

    Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Neil Lumsden, spoke publicly this week about the steps his office has taken to communicate with the federal Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, Randy Boissonnault, on debt relief for the industry. 

    Listen to the interview here.

    Minister Lumsden has reached out to communicate the needs of the industry, and has sent a formal letter to stress the need for extending the repayment deadline for the CEBA, RRRF and HASCAP loans. Thank you to Minister Lumsden for standing up for tourism business owners in Ontario. 

    Debt has impacted the capacity of businesses to operate at full capacity, hire the necessary staff, create new tourism experiences, and build the next attraction. For this reason, TIAO has joined a new coalition formed with national organizations in the visitor economy and small business sectors. Together, we are calling on the federal government to: 

    • Extend the zero-interest repayment deadline for the CEBA loan to December 31, 2025;   
    • Increase the forgivable portion of the CEBA loan to $30,000 (or 50%) if fully repaid before December 31, 2024, and maintain the current forgivable portion of $20,000 (or 33.3%) if fully repaid by December 31, 2025; and,  
    • Modify the RRRF and HASCAP loans in a similar fashion to allow more time and flexibility in repayment terms. 

    TIAO will be writing a letter to every Ontario MP to outline these recommendations and the urgent need to address this issue with deadlines coming up December 2023.  

    TIAO is aware of impacts caused by the weekly closure of the Burlington Skyway Bridge for maintenance. From July 7 to August 11, Niagara-bound lanes on the Burlington Skyway Bridge are being closed for more than 12 hours each Friday night for bridge repairs, reopening on Saturdays by 9:30am. While critical, these repairs are taking place during the busiest time of the year for Niagara tourism and during busy travel times. With the Burlington Skyway being the most direct route to Niagara, the closures have already disrupted Friday evening and early Saturday morning travel plans for Niagara-bound visitors, workers, and suppliers. TIAO is currently working with the Niagara Falls Canada Hotel Association (NFCHA), the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA), and government partners to come to a solution that will allow the remaining repairs to occur while minimizing travel disruption. Click here to see TIAO’s joint letter to Premier Ford.   

    Lastly, please register to join us for TIAO’s most important advocacy event of the year! Exclusive to TIAO Members, Tourism Day at Queen’s Park, happening on Tuesday, September 26th (8-5PM), is TIAO’s annual lobby day event at the provincial legislature. One of the association’s most highly rated events and membership benefits, TD@QP allows tourism industry leaders and stakeholders valuable face time with MPPs, Ministers and other government officials and staff. Read more and register below.


    Madison Simmons 
    Vice President, Public Affairs 

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