FedDev Ontario investment supports recovery of Ontario’s Highlands’ tourism sector

News release

Parliamentary Secretary Lalonde announces $1 million to support 70 tourism-oriented businesses and maintain 110 jobs

June 1, 2021 – Pembroke, Ontario

Tourism is essential to the vitality of businesses and communities in Ontario’s Highlands, including those in rural areas, with visitors traditionally drawn to the area’s natural and cultural attractions. The sector has been hit hard by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the past year, and tourism-related businesses are working hard to build back stronger.

Today, Marie-France Lalonde, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (FedDev Ontario and Official Languages), announced a non-repayable FedDev Ontario investment of $1 million to support the tourism industry’s recovery in Ontario’s Highlands. 

The Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (RTO-11) is using this investment to provide tourism-dependent businesses with up to $20,000 in non-repayable contributions to support costs associated with adapting and eventually reopening, such as space renovations and retrofits, implementing new health and safety protocols, purchase of equipment, fixtures and personal protective equipment, and support for technology and digitization. This fund is being delivered in partnership with the Frontenac County Economic Development Department, the Lennox and Addington Economic Development Department, the Hastings County Economic Development Department; the Haliburton County Tourism Department; the Lanark County Economic Development Department; and the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association. It is expected to support 70 businesses and maintain 110 jobs.

Adhering to COVID precautions meant OWL Rafting had to reduce customer capacity on the river by 60 percent.  The funding they received from Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization was applied towards an innovative approach to replacing some of the lost revenue by modifying their operations to expand their guest experience. They are excited to welcome new guests to Café OWL this summer to enjoy a gourmet coffee, freshly baked pastry or panini sandwich at their waterfront location. 

The tourism sector continues to demonstrate its resilience by adapting to challenges and seeking opportunities for recovery and growth. The Government of Canada is working to support these businesses and communities by helping to maintain jobs and prepare the tourism sector for a strong future comeback.


“Today’s investment is helping to deliver support to local tourism businesses across Ontario’s Highlands. Through this funding, we are assisting 70 businesses from one of the hardest-hit sectors of this pandemic as they rebuild and prepare for recovery.”
- Marie-France Lalonde, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (FedDev Ontario and Official Languages)

“The Government of Canada recognizes the impact that COVID-19 has had on the tourism industry, and we are here to support its recovery. This funding from FedDev Ontario is helping tourism-related businesses in Ontario’s Highlands adapt their operations, support jobs and prepare to welcome back visitors when it is safe to do so.”
- The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario

“We are extremely grateful to be working with FedDev Ontario to deliver this important funding. I couldn’t be prouder of our region and the tourism sector we represent. The COVID-19 crisis has been devasting to our industry, but our operators and our communities have demonstrated they can rise to the challenge with creativity, innovation and resilience. This funding recognizes the value of the effort, commitment, and sacrifices made adapting to provide safe experiences. It has been a privilege to work in collaboration with our partners to support the tourism businesses in our region.”
- Nicole Whiting, Executive Director, Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization 

“We take great pride in the experience we offer and typically make infrastructure improvements each year to respond to the needs of our guests. However, without the funding we received from Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization through FedDev Ontario, Café OWL simply would not have been possible. We appreciate the support made available to our seasonal rural business during such a difficult time and we are looking forward to offering our expanded experience to our guests this summer.”
- Claudia Van Wijk, owner, OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River

Quick facts

  • In Ontario, tourism and supporting industries account for $39.4 billion in GDP and directly and indirectly support more than 820,000 jobs.

  • Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization established that there are over 3,400 rural tourism businesses across the region that will benefit from support.

  • The investment in RTO-11 is part of $5.35 million in support for similar projects to help the tourism sector recover across Eastern Ontario, which are anticipated to support 480 businesses in the region.

  • This project is part of a series of investments across southern Ontario totaling $14.8 million to support the region’s tourism sector in adapting to the impacts of COVID-19.

  • Since November 1, 2015, FedDev Ontario has invested over $165 million in nearly 500 tourism-related projects. This includes over $93 million for 322 Regional Relief and Recovery Fund projects.

  • Subject to parliamentary approval, Budget 2021 proposes $500 million over two years through the Tourism Relief Fund for local tourism businesses to adapt their products and services to public health measures, recover from the pandemic and position themselves for growth; and $200 million over two years to support major festivals and events. Subject to Parliamentary approval, these measures will be delivered by the regional development agencies, including FedDev Ontario in southern Ontario.

Associated links


Catherine Mounier-Desrochers
Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages

Media Relations
FedDev Ontario
Toll Free: 1-866-593-5505
Website: www.FedDevOntario.gc.ca

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