The Municipality will be hiring a full time tourism coordinator to help with the development of tourism in North Grenville.
The position is part of North Grenville’s new tourism strategy, which was developed by consulting firm MDB Insight. The company was hired by the Municipality last year with the help of a $20,000 grant from Regional Tourism Association 9 (RTO 9). The strategy was presented to council on January 12, and outlined three strategic priorities: branding North Grenville as current, innovative, curious, generous, and family oriented; leveraging existing assets as backdrops for high-yield, high-value experiences for tourists and locals; and collaborating with business operators and others to build strong, reliable and unique tourism draws.
MDB Insight’s report suggested an annual budget of $200,000 to help foster and grow tourism in the municipality. This includes the hiring of a full-time tourism coordinator and summer staff. Although the goal is to work towards this budget to take full advantage of the opportunities that tourism brings to the municipality, staff has suggested that a phased-in approach would make more sense for 2021.
“COVID-19 has created many uncertainties for the local tourism industry,” said the report presented to council on March 2. “Staff must work with tourism businesses in 2021 to capitalize on a shift in consumer preferences to more localized travel options, the buy-local movement, and visitors’ increased prioritization of the outdoors.”
To respond to this, council has approved a $132,400 tourism budget for 2021. This includes $52,000 for the full- time tourism coordinator. According to the staff report, the tourism coordinator will play a key role in galvanizing support from the tourism sector, collaborating with other departments, and assisting with the evolution of the Kemptville Campus into a world-class, state-of-the-art tourism destination. They will also be the point of contact with local businesses as they prepare to welcome more tourists to the community in the coming years. The tourism coordinator’s salary will come out of a $6,200 line item earmarked for a tourism summer student, with the rest coming from general reserves. Councillor Doreen O’Sullivan expressed concern at the meeting about how much is being funded by reserves this year. However, Director of Finance, Brad Brookman, assured her that taking this amount of money from reserves will not affect the fiscal stability of the municipality. Councillor John Barclay also noted that these dollars should be looked at as money well spent.
“I think we have to look at an investment in tourism as simply that, not a cost, but an investment,” he said. “I think the return on that investment is going to be amazing. That’s what reserves are there for, to take advantage of opportunities.”
This year, the Municipality will also be looking at putting together a Tourism Advisory Committee. This will consist of five to seven tourism operators with direct involvement serving visitors. It is hoped that this committee will provide recommendations to Council on the implementation of the tourism strategy and feedback to staff on product development initiatives and marketing. “I think the establishment of a tourism advisory committee comprised of tourism operators is extremely useful and makes all sorts of sense in terms of leveraging their insights and perspectives,” Mayor Peckford said. “So, I’m glad to see that as part of the thinking as we move into early stages of implementation of the plan.”
To help pay for the tourism strategy, staff will be looking at exploring a Pay-to-Play program, where the Municipality will partner with local businesses to fund shared advertising and marketing campaigns. This model was used successfully by the Municipality in the development of their 2020 tourism guide.
Councillor John Barclay believes that this plan will allow them to get their house in order and prepare to be competitive when the tourism sector opens back up, hopefully in 2022. “We already have some well-developed tourism destinations surrounding us, so it’s important that we do the work this year,” he said.
Hilary Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Grenville Times