If the COVID-19 pandemic prevents you from visiting Science North next year, never fear – the science centre has big plans to visit you.
With the help of a $1.4-million investment made by the Ontario government, Science North will launch The Great Northern Ontario Roadshow starting in the second half of 2021.
The promotional tour will travel to more than 50 communities to highlight some of the tourist attractions and natural wonders located throughout the North.
Through a series of regionally tailored events, the roadshow hopes to generate revenue for tourist operations impacted by the pandemic.
“Before COVID-19, we had a vibrant tourism sector here in the North, so it is crucial that we look at innovative ways to support our local attractions as we plan for recovery and adjustment,” said Greg Rickford, minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, during a virtual funding announcement attended by 200 people in mid-December.
“Today's investment in Science North is directly contributing to the sustainability of our northern tourism industry.”
Before the pandemic, more than six million visitors traveled to Northern Ontario each year for recreation and tourism. Now, attractions and small businesses are experiencing a tremendous loss in terms of attendance.
This project will allow Science North to work with northern businesses, communities, and organizations to plan COVID-19 safe events that will allow tourist operators to connect with new audiences and promote their goods and services.
The roadshow is expected to engage 70,000 in-person visitors, hundreds of private sector businesses, and one million people through online engagement and impressions.
In partnership with Destination Northern Ontario, and other tourism marketing organizations, Science North will also develop a provincewide marketing strategy to encourage all Ontarians to visit the north once again.
The funding will also allow Science North to develop 25,000 take-home science kits for families.
Science North Board chair Dr. Stephen Kosar thanked the provincial government for its support and contribution toward this project during the virtual funding announcement on Dec. 16.
“The Great Northern Ontario Roadshow will involve private and public sector partners using their collective expertise to give local and regional audiences access to new and exciting experiences across the north,” he said.
“Physically distanced Experience Northern Ontario events will take place in 10 large urban centres, and in 40 rural, remote and Indigenous communities. Tourist operators, regional attractions, and local businesses will connect directly with their audiences and customers through a stay-cation expo.”
He hopes the roadshow will help boost mental health and morale as residents of Northern Ontario recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and begin to look toward the future.
“Science North has a mandate to deliver a program of science learning throughout Northern Ontario,” said Norm Miller, MPP for Parry Sound – Muskoka, who also attended the online event.
“The NOHFC’s investment in this project would generate immediate economic benefits for Northern Ontario, creating 140 employment opportunities and approximately $3.4 million in direct value-added economic benefits.”
Since June 2018, the NOHFC has invested more than $249 million in 1,963 projects in Northern Ontario, leveraging more than $1.1 billion in investment and creating or sustaining 4,546 jobs.
Science North is Canada’s second largest science centre and the largest tourism-based attraction in Northern Ontario.
In addition to the funding announced on Wednesday, the science centre is also looking into other funding opportunities to support The Great Northern Ontario Roadshow project.
Colleen Romaniuk is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with The Sudbury Star. The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.