A Look at Investing in Northern Ontario’s Tourism Businesses

With Ontario seeing a proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ to the pandemic lockdowns that have come to define the first years of the 2020s, people are turning attention to new opportunities and looking towards potentially savvy investments. This is particularly true of the tourism sector, as we see the effects of the pandemic: for many businesses, a total shutdown of operations and much uncertainty of not only reopening plans, but inconsistent government support to weather the storm the way other industries received.

Because of this, a number of tourism investment opportunities in northern Ontario – resorts, camps, restaurants, motels – are coming to market in 2021-22. These businesses, many of whom have been operating for decades under a single owner or passed down through the generations, are looking for new, fresh, energetic operators to take the businesses into this new era of hospitality-based entrepreneurship. Mostly gone are the days of catering to a single-user; today’s resort tourist is much more likely to arrive with a family, seeking far more creature comforts than in times past.

For many savvy entrepreneurs, this represents a unique opportunity to make an investment at an opportune time. There are a number of indicators that Ontario is due for increased inter-provincial and national travel as the international travel markets remains uneven, as vaccination rates in many countries lag behind that of Canada. This is confirmed by a number of reputable surveys that have found there is still quite a bit of apprehension towards short- and medium-term international travel from Canadians. RV travel and outdoor activities such as biking, kayaking, canoeing and water sports look to be at all-time highs in terms of participation, and multiple surveys have made it clear Ontarians are looking for quiet, personal experiences that allow them to experience the outdoors in a safe way that follows current health guidelines.

These factors are creating an environment ripe for long-term increases in roadway travel in northern Ontario moving forward, and makes these opportunities even more attractive for those looking to own their own business, be their own boss, and escape the life and the pressures created by the city.

And it’s easy to see why. Cursory glances of available opportunities show many of these businesses fall within the range of what’s considered a ‘normal’ mortgage in many urban areas. These opportunities represent not only a chance for many new and emerging entrepreneurs to own a business, but also a property to live and raise a family with, while creating an income stream and employing family and friends. For the immigrant and new Canadian population, these advantages become heightened even further as entrepreneurship offers an opportunity towards permanent citizenship, a trend in business succession that we have seen growing in recent years across the north.

There is a lot happening as we begin to reopen the economy and businesses start looking from day-to-day survival to building, growing and thriving. The opportunities that will present themselves over the next 12-18 months may be the largest shift in a generation when it comes to business succession and the development of new, exciting opportunities in northern Ontario’s towns and cities. There is much to be excited about, and the best is yet to come.

Three Links of Note:

  1. The Ontario government is investing $7.7 million in 19 projects that will help more than 2,700 newcomers qualify for in-demand jobs and help employers find the skilled workers they need to maintain and grow their businesses.

This standard provides definitions and methodologies for a set of indicators to identify and measure community well-being, prosperity, and sustainability in rural and small-town contexts, and is intended to contribute to improved rural data collection, compilation and comparison.

  • Want to keep up with current resort listings for sale in Ontario? Check out the aptly named ‘Resorts for Sale in Ontario’ webpage. And stay tuned, as we at Destination Northern Ontario look to put together a comprehensive listing program to help northern Ontario businesses looking to sell their tourism-based properties.

For more information, please contact Gord Knowles, Ec.D, Senior Coordinator, Investment Attraction and Economic Development at g.knowles@destinationnorthernontario.ca