The Haliburton tourism sector is seeking a recovery plan from the County, but council is not going in that direction for now. Council discussed a repositioned tourism marketing plan May 27.
Director of tourism Amanda Virtanen presented the plan, shifted due to COVID-19, to advertise the County for tourism whenever it is safe to do so.
But Virtanen said many tourism stakeholders are looking for more than marketing efforts. Yours Outdoors owner Barrie Martin said although the County’s efforts are positive, the industry is in danger and needs more support.
“A recovery plan that addresses challenges beyond marketing is necessary to ensure that our tourism industry survives,” Martin said. “Such a plan would continue to foster more collaboration, help stakeholders access supporting grants, and help re-orient the industry to be more successful, sustainable and community-based.”
“We need to move quickly to save our industry,” he added.
Virtanen reported many stakeholders have asked for a working recovery plan. But she said the tourism department’s mandate is “to focus on demand generation through marketing tactics” and that council has not asked to change that. She also noted it is likely prohibited under the Municipal Act for the County to provide financial assistance under a recovery plan.
Instead, the tourism department is planning to push back media campaigns until it is safe for more travel and focus
more on audiences within a three-to-five hour driving range. Marketing will also highlight the open space.
“We’re looking at pivoting our messaging toward really leveraging our accommodation as a focus,” Virtanen said. “That cottage resort, cottage lifestyle experience.”
Haliburton Forest general manager Tegan Legge said although a recovery plan would be nice, the County is in a difficult position and it is important to be adaptable. She added praise for the tourism department’s efforts so far.
“As long as they keep focusing on promoting what can be open and reminding people that we’re here when we can be fully open, I think it’s a great (marketing) plan,” Legge said.
Although council discussed the idea of centralized recovery efforts April 22, it did not get much traction. Warden Liz Danielsen said May 27 it seemed the townships wanted to go their own way.
“There seemed to be a drive by individual municipalities to take care of their own and not see anyone overstep their bounds,” she said.
Coun. Brent Devolin said economic development not being present at the County level is an issue.
“Post-COVID, this is one of at least a half-a-dozen things we need to change with our five levels of government,” he said. Danielsen said that it would be addressed in an upcoming service delivery review.
Council voted to accept the repositioned tourism marketing plan.