Tourism and Collingwood

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Tourism is the world’s fifth fastest-growing industry and growing at five percent per year. A recent story on CBC Radio this week suggests growth has been even higher for Canada, thanks to our lower Loonie: at least six percent.

According to the Tourism Association of Canada, in 2013, Canada’s tourism industry:

  • Represented more of Canada’s GDP than agriculture, forestry and fisheries combined
  • Generated $88.5 billion in economic activity
  • Was responsible for more than $17.2 billion in export revenue despite a growing travel deficit
  • Generated $9.6 billion in federal government revenue
  • Fostered 628 000 jobs across the country, spread across all 308 ridings

Tourism is BIG. Ontario’s festivals, events and attractions generate $28 billion and support 347,000 jobs each year. Festivals and events alone generate $2.3 billion in Ontario and support almost 50,000 jobs – and generate approximately $1 billion in taxes.

For Collingwood and the region, tourism and our hospitality sector are not merely important to our economic vitality: they are crucial. So what do Collingwood’s five proposed vision statements say about tourism, events, hospitality and recreation as growth drivers and employers? What do they say about the economic importance of tourism? Here it is:

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Pretty profound, wouldn’t you say? Perhaps it’s a Zen-like statement and we are supposed to infer meaningful content from the very emptiness. Or perhaps the committee just forgot all about tourism in the region. Or maybe they couldn’t find a sufficiently saccharine adjective to pair with it.

Well, at least tourism appears in the “plan’s” action items*. Twice. That’s all. Clearly not once as a priority, however. More of an afterthought:

ACTION ITEM: Develop Terms of Reference for the WMP. The WMP may include elements such as attraction of tourism, shoreline management protection, preservation of natural areas, future development, public access, and water and land uses.
ACTION ITEM: Explore opportunities to partner with health and wellness businesses and groups, such as the YMCA and Regional Tourism Organization 7.

Well, of course these inaction items don’t actually recommend doing anything. The first one only suggests tourism may be considered in the town’s waterfront master plan (which itself may never be completed within this term) and could be left out entirely. It depends on the phase of the moon, apparently. The  second item simply recommends merely exploring “opportunities” – it doesn’t recommend any action, and dumps the responsibility on an outside agency (RTO7).

Surely some on this council, lame as it has been called, must understand and appreciate the great importance of tourism and the hospitality to out town and our region. After all, they ran for a council position in a tourist town, so they must have a vision to support and develop it, market the community and promote events and activities, right? So let’s look at what they promised in their election campaign literature. This is, mind you, taken solely from those who were elected, not everyone who ran for office:

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That’s a bit troubling. But of course, in its important first ten months in office, council has surely raised tourism, marketing and promotion at the table and expressed its support for moving ahead to further enhance, refined and expand our hospitality sector so as to attract more visitors and capitalize on the weak dollar while we can. And here’s what they said:

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Meanwhile, our next-door neighbour seem to be on the ball in trying to at least get organized:

The town’s first point of contact for tourists could be handed over to a regional organization. On Tuesday, July 21, Wasaga Beach council’s committee of the whole accepted a recommendation to receive a report reviewing the relationship between the municipality and the chamber when it comes to the provision of tourism services.

Maybe Collingwood residents aren’t welcoming to visitors, events, festivals or the other activities that draw tourists. NIMBY is always a prime directive here in Hen and Chicken Harbour. And thus council is only reflecting that narrow-minded, isolationist attitude.

Perhaps, having rejected the request  to add more docks to the harbour lest these docks attract visitors to our waterfront (which is to be the hallowed domain of paddlers), council feels collectively obliged to spread its dislike of visitors town-wide just to be equally unfair to all sectors.

Or perhaps having developed a well-deserved reputation in a very short time for being aggressively anti-business and anti-development, council wishes to be consistent in its disputatiousness and is thus equally anti-tourist.

I’m sure that, once Council has a few more “plans” in place – six, maybe ten should do the trick – and has been told what to think by outsiders, consultants, the administration and council’s political masters, some of them will be able to speak to the business of tourism and hospitality that is so vital to our local economy. Perhaps that might even happen this term, assuming pigs will fly by then…

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* I put the word “plan” in parentheses here to distinguish the proposed collection of platitudes, errors, irrelevancies and wishful thinking from an actual strategic plan.

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One Reply to “Tourism and Collingwood”

  1. To be fair, Councillor Lloyd – who had a career in marketing and advertising – understands tourism and its benefits.It was his initiative to create the Small Business Centre and hire the Marketing & Economic Development Director to promote and develop Collingwood, in part as a destination location. We have, over the years and even post-politics, had many conversations about the economic benefits of tourism, events and activities.

    However, I am not aware of any member of the Politburo who shares his understanding, experience or wisdom about this all-so-important areas of our local economy.As far as I can see, the Politburo is too obsessed with trivial minutiae like the code of conduct to get involved with macro-issues like our economy.

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