The provincial government's "staycation tax credit" is now in effect for Ontarians who plan getaways within the province this year.
Announced Nov. 4, the credit aims to boost local business by offering people who book overnight stays in Ontario for anytime in 2022 a return of 20 per cent on accommodation expenses of up to $1,000 per person or $2,000 per family.
Some businesses welcomed the incentive — which works out to a maximum return of $200 per person or $400 per family — saying they hope it can help those hit hardest during COVID-19 restrictions.
"Everybody suffered," said Renda Abdo, owner of the Lakeside Motel in Prince Edward County, about 200 kilometres northeast of Toronto. "People are still very unsure about travelling on planes and too far away from home, so I think it's perfect timing."
Geoffrey Wild, owner of The Wild Tart pastry shop in Elora, just northwest of Guelph, said the credit could help boost local tourism, which would help a variety of businesses.
"The recent [Omicron] variant, the virus, things like that remind us it's nice we can travel locally, travel around our province," he said
Too late for some
But for some, the credit comes too late.
"They should have introduced it way long ago," said Barry Choi, creator of Moneywehave.com, a personal finance and budget travel blog. "[Businesses] could have used those dollars in 2021 when things were really hurting."
Choi said he and his family have done their Ontario travelling already, having just returned home to Toronto from a trip to Ottawa.
"I'm going to be looking to travel outside Canada," he said. "And I can think of a lot of people who are in the same boat."
In October, Canada lifted a blanket advisory that had been in place since March 2020 against all non-essential travel outside the country.
More recently, to prevent travel-related infections amid mounting case counts and spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, the federal government has been advising Canadians to avoid all non-essential international travel.
'This province is the same size as many countries'
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says it supports Ontario's 2022 travel tax credit.
"It makes sense to delay it to a time where Ontarians could comfortably and confidently take advantage of it," said Ryan Mallough, senior director of provincial affairs for Ontario with the CFIB.
Wild said Ontario offers something new to see, even for those who have already done some exploring in the province.
"To everybody that says, 'I spent my Ontario travel money,' — my God, this province is the same size as many countries," he said. "So you can't tell me you've done all your travel yet."
On its website, the provincial government lays out the details around eligibility, including that Ontarians can claim the credit for accommodation expenses for "a leisure [not business-related] stay of less than a month," at a short-term accommodation, such as a: hotel, motel, resort, lodge, bed-and-breakfast establishment, cottage or campground.
The stay must occur between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2022, the province says, "regardless of timing of payment."