When COVID-19 entered the world stage, we all naturally turned to the outdoors as a destination for vacations, weekend getaways, and just to generally relieve a little pandemic stress. With an abundance of prime natural settings, Ontario’s outdoor experiences were in high demand, and particularly the Ottawa Valley’s signature experience, whitewater rafting and paddling.

Located on the Ottawa River, OWL Rafting has been providing high quality whitewater rafting experiences on the Ottawa River for more than 40 years, and when COVID-19 entered the picture at first glance they were in a good position. They offered an experience which was almost entirely outdoors, and they also offered an accommodation option.

As the pandemic progressed and the pressure increased on outdoor experiences, OWL realized they needed to stay ahead of the game to ensure they were able to offer the safest experience possible and protect customers and staff from possible exposures to COVID-19.

“We were looking for funding to build new systems and structures to provide safely distanced experiences during the pandemic,” explained Stefi Van Wijk, co-owner of OWL Rafting.

In early 2021, OWL submitted an application for OHTO’s Tourism Recovery and Innovation Program – Capital Projects funding stream to allow them to re-open safely after the early 2021 lockdown, while reducing transmission risk for customers and staff. The application requested $25,000 in funds to add additional covered seating to increase dining capacity outdoors, including separate collapsible tent canopies, along with the construction of additional fire pits and stone seating areas to maintain physical distancing for guests.

Stefi went on to explain that the application process was made even easier this year with the online portal where each applicant was able to create their own personal profile.

“OHTO staff supported us throughout the funding process and reporting was made so easy with the online portal…OHTO knows how to support our region’s tourism,” said Stefi.

Heading into a new year, Stefi, staff, and owners at OWL are looking forward to doing what they do best: delivering high quality outdoor experiences in Ontario’s Highlands.

“We’re looking forward to bringing people to, through, and into the Ottawa River this summer.”

About OHTO’s Tourism Recovery & Innovation Program – Capital Projects Stream

The TRIP-Capital Grants stream is geared specifically to small to medium-sized tourism businesses to offset up to 80% of eligible capital expenses incurred to modify operations to a maximum of $20,000 in non-repayable funding, including expenses incurred back to June 1, 2020.  

For more information about other available OHTO funding programs, please visit the Programs and Resources section at ohto.ca

About FedDev Ontario

For more than 12 years, FedDev Ontario has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation and growth in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving their productivity, growing their revenues, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the Agency’s impact in southern Ontario by exploring Southern Ontario Spotlightpivotal projectsTwitterFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.