TORONTO — Richmond Hill Travel owner Ross de Gregorio says he’s hearing from many other agency owners about the Ontario Small Business Support Grants, which many in the industry say are frustrating at best and completely inaccessible at worst.
“We are receiving calls from many other colleagues in our industry about this issue,” he says. Travelweek first posted de Gregorio’s feedback about the grant system yesterday, after his agency was denied follow-up funding.
“This provincial government has absolutely no understanding nor real concern about the travel distribution industry losses provoked by this pandemic,” he says.
“Not only were we forced to stay closed, but also our customers were denied the right to travel anywhere and therefore to purchase any travel service from us.”
Richmond Hill Travel had successfully applied for the COVID-19 Small Business Support Grants earlier this year, as ‘Retail required to close for in-person shopping (excluding grocery)’, and was approved and received an initial $20,000.
He says subsequently the Ontario government made an announcement that small businesses that were approved for the first $20,000 grant were eligible to receive an additional $20,000 grant to help them stay open and continue their business activities.
When he applied for the follow up funding, the answer was no.
De Gregorio is inviting other agency owners in Ontario to contact him if they received the same response. He can be reached at 905-737-6111 or 1-800-566-6608. De Gregorio is also the owner of Manditours.
Over the past several months agents have told Travelweek that the application site for the grants was tough to navigate and the process cumbersome. Many retailers, especially independent travel advisors, report that their applications have been outright denied.
“Any other retail businesses were offered the opportunity to sell their goods and services online. We were not, because our potential customers could not travel!” says de Gregorio.
“And now the Ontario government is telling us that we are not eligible to receive a grant that has been extended instead to other retail businesses!
“Disgusting at best.”