Niagara tourism sector gets boost from feds

Tourism season may be coming to an end in Niagara, but new funding announced by the federal government this week will aim to extend the tourism season year-round.

Melanie Joly, Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie, was in Niagara-on-the-Lake Monday morning to announce funding for three projects surrounding Niagara’s craft beverage industry. Joly made the announcement at Oast House Brewers as part of a two-day tour of the Niagara region.

For too long the tourism sector “has been taken for granted in the power halls of Ottawa,” Joly said. Last November she was in Niagara as the federal government launched a new tourism strategy.

The funding announced Monday totalled $334,000, with the bulk of it going to the 2020 International Cool Climate Wine Symposium — which Niagara will host. Up to $250,000 will be provided to the Grape Growers of Ontario as it prepares to host 600 wine and grape experts, industry leaders and media next July. This is the first time Canada will host the symposium, which promotes cool climate grape growing and has taken place every four years since 1984.

“It will attract international leaders in grape and wine growing to examine how climate change drives innovations, to maintain our competitive edge in cool climate wine-growing regions,” said Debbie Inglis, director of the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University. Brock is partnering with GGO to host the symposium.

The two other projects receiving federal funding include GoSip Niagara, which the city of St. Catharines is undertaking to build on its Niagara Ale Trail project and promote the region’s craft beverage industry. The city will receive up to $50,000 to help launch GoSip Niagara.

“We need more information to present what’s available to the public,” said Joly.

The final funding announcement was $34,000 to the Exchange Brewery. The money will help it grow its Sourpalooza festival, which will return this September for its second edition. Sourpalooza is a festival focused on sour beers, a lesser-known style of beer that Exchange Brewery founder and CEO Robin Ridesic said is growing in popularity.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to attract a new demographic of tourist to Niagara,” she said, adding that sour beer fans tend to skew to the younger adult age demographic.

The funding has allowed Exchange to add a fourth session for Sourpalooza, and Ridesic said it will also help them expand even further next year.

Joly said there are systemic issues in Canada’s tourism that need to be addressed — one issue is that demand is too concentrated, with tourists visiting Canada’s three largest cities and overwhelmingly coming during the summer.

“We need to make sure we have people offering international tourists much more experiences throughout the year and throughout the different regions of the country,” she said.

The strategy includes three targets: creating 54,000 new jobs in the tourism industry by 2023, growing revenues by 25 per cent by 2023 and bring in one million new visitors to places outside Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

by Luke Edwards, St. Catharines Standard