After a year-and-a-half of effort, consultant MMGY NextFactor unveiled a new vision of Haliburton County tourism to council Dec. 11.
The Vancouver-based company presented a five-year destination management plan, completed after several workshops with the tourism sector since May 2019. It outlines how local tourism could be improved, pushing for strategic priorities such as strengthening community collaboration, diversifying destination development and enhancing the local brand.
Executive consultant, Kathleen Frankford, said the County should remain focused on implementing the plan in the best interests of the majority of stakeholders, not the 20 per cent or so who may disagree.
“This is based on data and science, based on stakeholder input,” Frankford said. “You’re always going to have people in the community who don’t agree with everything the organization is doing, but the most successful organizations have been those who have been focused and remained on course.”
The stated destination vision is Haliburton County as a place “where residents and visitors celebrate the essence of Canada’s outdoor and creative spirit,” meant to harken back to the area’s blend of nature and creative self-expression. The plan offers 14 action items, ranging from developing a resident sentiment survey, to developing more niche tourism products and expanding marketing efforts.
The strategy makes several points about expanding the range of tourism offerings in the County, including food, arts, culture and evening experiences. Senior vice president, Greg Oates, said outdoors remains the focal point but those other experiences can increase how much time and money tourists spend here.
“Convince people to spend more money and come out of their cabins and visit other parts of the community,” Oates said.
Coun. Patrick Kennedy of Dysart et al said it needs to be considered in the context of COVID-19, which boosted the winter population and demand for service.
“We also have to hit the pause button. I think we have to ask – how many is too many? Our lakes are overcrowded,” Kennedy said. “While we have this plan, it also highlights the problems that we currently have and will have in the future.”
Coun. Carol Moffatt of Algonquin Highlands said the County should integrate the plan into what it is already doing, including the service delivery review and addressing capacity challenges. She also said what resonated most with her was the highlighting of community alignment.
“Its success or its failure is only going to rely on the community’s ability and willingness to actually work together. There has been, historically, over a long, long time, a disappointing amount of in-fighting and criticism,” Moffatt said. “I just look forward to seeing this move forward.”
Council formally adopted the plan at its Dec. 16 meeting.