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Muskoka sees boost in tourism amid provincial timeline report


Tourism operators across Simcoe Muskoka are still trying to dig out of the pandemic.

According to a report set to be released on Tuesday, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Association of Ontario found that the tourism industry is not expected to recover fully until 2025.

Chris Bloore, president and CEO of Tourism Association of Ontario, said businesses in the province are generating under 70 per cent of pre-pandemic revenues.

"Now that has a difference depending on the geographical location that you're in. So we're seeing northern Ontario businesses still only being at half their revenues pre-pandemic form," said Bloore.

Bloore added that seven in 10 operators in three provinces have taken on debt to stay afloat during the pandemic.

The Muskoka region could be an outlier. Although many businesses continue to feel the effects of the pandemic, Tourism Muskoka says as a whole it is getting back to 2019 form.

"We're already starting to see that. This past September, we were 10 per cent points above 2019, so our occupancy rate during that period actually exceeded 2019 levels," said Val Hamilton, the executive director of Muskoka Tourism.

She explained that group business has made a resurgence leading to higher profits for hotels and conference centres, on top of strong leisure tourism.

"We actually surpassed 2019 levels. So the provide is slowly getting there, but Muskoka, for the most part, has already reached that," said Hamilton.

Live theatres are one business seeing a resurgence as audiences flock to take in the sights on the stage once again.

Shawna Patterson, the interim director of recreation and culture for Gravenhurst, said the Opera House has had nearly every show sell out since opening in the spring.

The boost in ticket sales comes after over two years of the stage collecting dust as restrictions barred anyone from performing and large groups from attending.

"Our patrons are happy we're back open," said Patterson.

Neighbouring Kings Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene shares that feeling. Staff hope to make back lost revenue after operations were forced to close several venues.

"I have programmed a season that is reminiscent of president pandemic levels because we're very confident that people want to be back in the theatre," said Alex Mustakas, the Artistic director of Drayton Entertainment. Top Stories

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