Celebrate Ontario Grants for Tourism Projects

High-quality events and festivals have a profound impact on Ontario’s economy. Maintaining or expanding these events, however, requires significant time and capital. Event organizers must constantly operate on thin budgets while trying to maximize their reach to pull off a successful tourism-generating event. But this doesn’t have to be the case; Ontario government funding can support these types of projects and make it easier to host globally-recognized events.

The Celebrate Ontario program offers grant funding to festivals, events, and cultural organizations that will host tourism-focused events in the province. Tourism grants support the operating expenses and/or promotional costs of new and existing events with the expectation that the funding will lead to long-term improvements, sustainability, and attraction of additional tourists.

Eligible events may receive up to $250,000 in Celebrate Ontario tourism grants. Event organizers can apply for up to two events in one government fiscal year (April 1 – March 31).

To apply for Celebrate Ontario funding, eligible event organizers must develop and submit a comprehensive application package that includes applicant financial statements, event budgets, and a clear rationale for how government funding will increase tourism and lead to a better, more sustainable event than otherwise possible. Application packages are due by an annual deadline; to access funding for an event between April 1, 2019 – March 31, 2020, applicants must submit all materials for consideration by January 9, 2019.

What is the Celebrate Ontario Program?

Celebrate Ontario is the primary government funding mechanism used to support event organizers that are planning a tourism generating event. It can be applied for annually in support of new and recurring events where there is an active focus on having tourists (those who commute for 40+ kilometres either way or cross a border) attend.

Through the Celebrate Ontario program, event organizers can access up to $250,000 in grants for tourism projects.

Specific funding contributions are calculated based on the lesser value of two options:

  • Existing Events: Up to 50% of the event’s cash operating expenses OR 15% of the most recently held event’s operating expenses.
  • New Events: Up to 50% of event programming and marketing expenses OR 15% of the event’s projected cash operating expenses.

Celebrate Ontario Blockbuster Events

Blockbuster events are one-time or infrequent events that do not recur annually in Ontario. These types of events travel nationally or internationally to host destinations and often include a bidding and hosting process. It’s a special classification of events reserved for applicants with cash operating expenses of at least $1 million and with substantial tourism benefits for the host destination and surrounding areas.

Funding is awarded to support:

  • Event Bidding: No maximum on the amount of funding that can be provided; applicants must justify their funding request and have a strong plan for using those funds to improve the event’s tourism impact.
  • Blockbuster Event Hosting: Up to 20% of eligible event cash operating expenses.

As opposed to the typical Celebrate Ontario application process, Blockbuster event applicants can submit funding proposals year-round. Applicants must submit all necessary documentation by a floating deadline that corresponds to their event:

  • Event Bidding: Minimum of two months prior to a bid deadline for Tourism Event.
  • Blockbuster Event Hosting: Minimum four months prior to the Tourism Event.

Applicants Eligible for Celebrate Ontario Tourism Grants

To access Celebrate Ontario tourism grants, applicants must:

  • Be based in Ontario;
  • Have legal status for a minimum of one year as of January 1, 2019; and
  • Be federally or provincially incorporated, established under legislation, a Band Council established under the Indian Act, or another incorporated Indigenous organization.

Tourism Events Eligible for Celebrate Ontario

For events to be deemed eligible for Celebrate Ontario funding, they must:

  • Be open to the general public without membership;
  • Be an annual or biennial event;
  • Occur in Ontario; and
  • Occur between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020.

Existing vs. New Celebrate Ontario Events

As defined by Celebrate Ontario, eligible events are either:

  • Existing Events: An annual or biennial event that previously occurred at least once in the last two years.
  • New Events: Include inaugural events, events that have not occurred in Ontario before, or events that have occurred in Ontario but not within the last two years.

Celebrate Ontario Success Stories

Celebrate Ontario supports a wide range of tourism events across the province. Some recent festivals and events that received funding include:

Apply for Celebrate Ontario Tourism Event Grants

To be considered for tourism event funding through Celebrate Ontario, eligible applicants must develop a competitive proposal for their event, highlighting specifically how government grants will support the event and lead to enhanced tourism. Proposals (excluding those for Blockbuster events) must be submitted prior to the program’s annual intake deadline.

To receive Celebrate Ontario funding for tourism events in 2019, application packages must be submitted to the program by January 9, 2019.

Application Evaluation Criteria

Applications sent for review are scored and prioritized based on the following criteria:

  • Current financial position and organizational capacity;
  • Project information and rationale;
  • Performance measurement, impact, and marketing;
  • Tourism and community economic development partnerships; and
  • Event budget and Celebrate Ontario budget.

To discuss your eligibility for the Celebrate Ontario program and discover ways to optimize the application process, please contact Mentor Works.

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Written by

Jeff Shepherd holds an Honours Bachelor of Business Administration at the University of Guelph. He is passionate about Canadian business, economics, and politics. As Marketing Coordinator for Mentor Works, Jeff educates business leaders about proactive funding strategies.

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