Lincoln, St. Catharines look to bring more tourists to Niagara Benchland

Lincoln’s and St. Catharines’ tourism sectors are coming together to bring more tourists to the Niagara Benchlands.

The Town of Lincoln has made a two-year financial commitment in an effort to bring more tourists to the area. With the help of a destination marketing organization (DMO), the project is ready to get off the ground.

The DMO received council’s green light for $75,000 this year and another $75,000 next year as startup funding, meaning a step toward its full implementation.

Paul Di Ianni, director of economic development and communications at the Town of Lincoln, said the DMO aims to increase visitation and visitor spending in the Niagara Benchlands. It will contribute to creating 1,700 tourism-related jobs in Lincoln, primarily in restaurants and food establishments — with the highest growth associated with beverage manufacturing jobs in the craft beverage sector.

Di Ianni said there is a “jump” in that number with seasonal employment and farm workers.

On March 30, the organization will be holding its first public information centre, where short-term accommodation partners could come in and learn about what the DMO is doing.

“The idea is to move it as quickly as possible because we see the benefit of having visitors come to Lincoln, staying here, paying the tax,” Di Ianni said. “And that money then going into destination marketing to support the tourism industry.”

The idea for the DMO dates back to 2017 when staff started to look into ideas to grow tourism as one of the crucial sectors of the economy.

St. Catharines has also proposed contributing to the project this year through its municipal accommodations tax (MAT).

"Effective Jan. 1, the City of St.Catharines began collecting their newly adopted 2 per cent Municipal Accommodations Tax to help support the future development and sustainability of this proposed, new joint-DMO. The impact of this MAT tax contribution from the City of St.Catharines, will not be available to support the proposed DMO until the 2024 calendar year," said Di Ianni. "In the interim, the town will work alongside our partners in the City of St.Catharines to execute joint-marketing activities that support our collective destinations, as well as further organizational development activities such as comprehensive governance , bylaws, and a short-term business plan to support the organization through transition."

The next steps of the DMO’s implementation include: the creation of bylaws, a service-level agreement between the municipalities and the DMO, and forming an inaugural board.

The organization is expected to initiate its first marketing program in the third quarter of 2023.

"Tourism and hospitality represent our greatest opportunity for economic growth here in the community,” Di Ianni said. “It’s our best avenue for job growth.”

Beatriz Baleeiro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News