CAEM Update- Tourism Relief Fund



In Budget 2021, the Federal Government announced a number of support programs for the tourism sector.  Of particular interest to CAEM was the Tourism Relief Fund because it appeared to have the most potential for our members.  Following the budget presentation in April, CAEM focused much of its attention on pressing government for answers regarding their announced programs and in particular the Tourism Relief Fund.  To that end CAEM has met with senior policy advisors at the Federal Ministry of Economic Development and has held several meetings with the Director and Manager of the Tourism Relief Fund at the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) to understand the eligibility criteria and the application process.

What follows are the insights we have learned through the several technical briefings and meetings we have had regarding the Tourism Relief Fund.  We encourage our members across the country to explore this funding option and decide whether applying will be worthwhile for your business.

Announced in Budget 2021 and launched July 12, the Tourism Relief Fund is a $500 million program delivered by Canada’s Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). The fund supports tourism businesses and organizations to adapt their operations to meet public health requirements; improve their products and services; and position themselves for post-pandemic recovery.    The program will run for 2 years, until March 31, 2023, and funding is retroactive to April 19, 2021.


Eligible applicants include entities that cater mainly to visitors such as businesses (must be incorporated) and not-for-profit organizations. Applicants must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Be a key supplier or operator in the visitor experience
  • Be part of a defined tourism cluster or a tourism dependent community, including supporting downtown cores; or
  • Provide an anchor product or service in a tourism destination

Eligible Activities include:

  • Product development: For example, projects that enhance tourism experiences; help tourism businesses adapt to the “new normal” and modernize their offerings; and encourage the adoption of more environmentally sustainable and inclusive practices.
  • Destination development: For example, projects that position communities to take advantage of post-pandemic opportunities through strategic planning for medium-to-long-term investments as well as supporting destination development and downtown cores, in line with objectives set out in the Federal Tourism Growth Strategy.

Funding Terms

Contributions to businesses will be either:

  • Non-repayable contributions up to 50% of eligible costs to a maximum of $100,000 or
  • Fully repayable contributions up to 75% of eligible costs to a maximum of $500,000
  • Contributions to not-for-profit organizations will be eligible for non-repayable contributions. (Not to exceed $500,000)

For repayable contributions, terms are 0% interest and repayment will not begin until the end of the program (March 31, 2023).


Business events, including trade and consumer shows drive $33 billion into the Canadian economy on an annual basis.  The Regional Development Agencies across Canada which are tasked with implementing the Tourism Relief Fund are mandated to fund projects in their regions which drive economic development and there is no question trade and consumer shows drive economic development in the cities and communities they serve.   Further, one of the key criteria in this funding program is to be aligned with the objectives set out in the Federal Tourism Growth Strategy, mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Pillar 1 in the strategy document is Building Tourism in Canada’s Communities.  As you read through this section you'll find that one of the objectives under this Pillar is to grow winter and shoulder-season tourism.  In our discussions with FedDev Ontario we pointed out that trade and consumer shows are a key driver of tourism and the visitor economy in the winter and shoulder seasons.  Many shows across the country fill hotels in downtown cores in the fall, winter, and spring seasons with exhibitors and visitors from across North America and beyond.  These visitors spend money not only on hotels, but in restaurants, retail and at local attractions.   When this was pointed out, the officials at FedDev Ontario agreed, based on our description, that trade and consumer shows met the criteria to apply for this funding.

It is for these reasons we encourage you to explore applying for the Tourism Relief Fund in your region. The application is very narrative based, meaning it is important to explain in detail what you would use the funding for and how it would benefit your city, community or region. Further, we suggest you also read through the Federal Tourism Growth strategy as you may find other elements that align with your events beyond what we have highlighted.  We have been told applications will be thoughtfully  considered and a representative from the Regional Development Agency will reach out to discuss your application and how it fits (or does not fit)  in this funding stream and perhaps offer suggestions of other available funding streams.

Tips to keep in mind when filling out the application form:

  • Full explanations of how the funding will be used and how it will impact the economic development/tourism of your local area are very important, as well as a focus on economic recovery.
  • If jobs will be created/recovered with the funding this is important to illustrate.
  • When asked for specific numbers regarding visitors/tourism, 2019 numbers can be used.
  • Financial statements from the last 2 fiscal years are to be included with applications as well as letters of incorporation.

While there is no deadline to submit applications, it is a competitive process and the sooner an application is submitted the better.  FedDev Ontario is already receiving applications and hopes to announce the first round of recipients in September.

Below you will find the links to the Federal Development Agencies across the country who are administering the Tourism Relief Fund.   The application process is explained thoroughly in each of the links , but you are encouraged to reach out to the agency in your region with any questions you may have as you work through the application process.

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency    1.800.561.7862

Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions    1.800.561.0633

Federal Development Agency for Southern Ontario     1.866.593.5505

FedNor (Northern Ontario)    1.866.694.8389

Western Economic Diversification Canada    1.888.338.9378

As always, you are welcome to reach out to the CAEM office as we are happy to help direct you based on the conversations we've had with FedDev Ontario regarding this funding stream.   We also ask you to please let us know if you apply for the Tourism Relief Fund and what the outcome is.  The more information we have from you,  the stronger our advocacy will be. 

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