Canada came out on top of the New York Times travel rankings in 2017. Three years later, the country's tourist industry is in big trouble. On Sunday, the federal government announced funding to try to bring it back by catering to Canadians. (Reuters/Shutterstock)

Ottawa funding plan to attract more tourists: they’re called Canadians

Ottawa has revealed plans to try to help Canada’s ailing tourist industry laid low by COVID-19.

Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly announced Sunday that about $30 million originally intended to attract foreign visitors through the federal tourism marketing agency, Destination Canada, will now go to help provinces and territories to encourage Canadians to visit the rest of Canada.

Joly said the government is also setting aside around $40 million so tourism agencies can adapt their operations to the pandemic, particularly in what would normally be the busy summer season.

“A lot of people who have lost their jobs are in the tourism sector right now and the entire idea right now is to save the summer, but to save the summer differently,” Joly told The Canadian Press.

COVID-19 has knocked the wind out of an industry that saw a record-breaking 22.1 million international tourists visit Canada in 2019, surpassing the previous year’s record of 21.1 million.

The Emerald Princess docked in Vancouver March 29, 2019. The start of last year’s cruise season saw 288 cruise ships dock in Vancouver. That won’t be happening this year. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

A report by Destination Canada suggests the sector could see total tourism spending decline by about a third from 2019 levels that generated nearly $105 billion in expenditures and contributed $43.5 billion in gross fomestic product.

Destination Canada also found that under the worst case scenario, travel spending could drop nearly 60 per cent this year, leading to $47 billion in losses.  

The 2016 census counted 1.8 million Canadians employed in the tourism sector — 10.6 per cent of all employed individuals in Canada.

With files from The Canadian Press

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