Over three million dollars is being pumped into the tourism sector known officially as the regional tourism organization (RTO) 11 that stretches between Ottawa, Algonquin Park, the Quebec border and just south of Highway 7.

Today’s it was yesterday announcement was about the $350,000 that will be invested into local festivals and events through the Celebrate Ontario program. That’s in addition to the $2.9 million that’s already been invested through other avenues.

“We knew we had this commitment back in July,” Executive Director of RTO 11 Nicole Whiting says. They were only able to formally announce it once they got approval from MacLeod’s office.

They did two campaigns already with the funding. The first happened in October and was called “To My Homeless Love” and was done in partnership with the six counties within the RTO 11 region. “Each county got their own community video,” Whiting explains. The idea was to inspire people to “explore their own backyard.”

The second program was designed to support tourism businesses to enhance their digital presence. So far, seven businesses in Haliburton County have signed up for a $2,500 grant to help them improve their website and digital marketing.

A third project is being worked on, but Whiting didn’t have the details of it just yet. “We’re taking advantage of the wonderful winter experiences we have in Ontario Highlands,” she teases.

“Ontario and the Haliburton-Highlands to the Ottawa Valley Region have many tourism attractions and programs within their local communities,” said Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Lisa MacLeod. “These organizations were hit the hardest, and our government is committed to supporting these local agencies as they work through and overcome the effects of COVID-19.”

Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP and Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott called MacLeod an “incredible champion” for the area. She added that they’re fortunate tourism has been able to safely continue in the region during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We know hope is on the horizon with vaccines and rapid testing,” she said. “But we know also that we need to help organizations bridge to that better time that we all know will come.”

Scott boasted that Haliburton is “one of the most photographed regions in our province.” She said this funding will help the families and businesses that live and run in Haliburton continue to provide service to tourists and locals alike.

“Our communities are surrounded by world-class natural assets, but it is the character of our people that brings our natural environment and our rich culture and heritage to life,” Whiting said. “The investments made will help to preserve an incredible legacy of collaboration, creativity and resilience.”