Adventure Haliburton plans to introduce a new app which it hopes will attract tourists to Haliburton adventure experiences.

Randy Pielsticker, vice-president of Adventure Haliburton, presented their new Driftscape app initiative to Haliburton County council June 9.

Driftscape is an app and online platform which marks businesses on a map and provides interactive descriptions, tours and more.

“It’s a great navigation tool to help tourists find adventures locally,” Pielsticker said.

The Driftscape program requires a $4,800 annual subscription to host set numbers of points of interest in an area. Part of that fee pays for interactive map elements and tours; “gamifying” the experience of exploring the County.

Adventure Haliburton proposes the costs would be primarily carried by their membership fees and topped up by County contributions. Only members would get a spot on the map.

The organization is requesting a one-time $5,000 contribution from the County to assist with initial costs including hiring an external marketing consultant, as well as $2,500 annually to help with advertising, marketing and outreach.

“This will be something that will be an investment for the long-term,” Pielsticker explained. If County council chooses to pitch in, Pielsticker hopes to purchase a higher-level Driftscape package which allows more points of interest. That means they could add local landmarks and municipal trails and other local attractions.

Adventure Haliburton is an incorporated group of Adventure experience providers, resorts and restaurants, with a tiered membership program. The goal of the organization is publicizing Haliburton as a adventure tourism destination.

After COVID-19 put an end to Adventure Haliburton’s promotion of their members through tradeshows and in-person events, Pielsticker said Driftscape is a logical new direction for promotion.

“It really provided a solution to many of our challenges and answers many of our initiatives,” he said.

Exclusivity concerns

Some councillors voiced concerns about helping to fund an exclusive tourism program.

“For me, the membership requirement is a problem,” Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt said. “Pay-to-play isn’t an even playing field for all the players.”

County Warden Liz Danielsen agreed.

“I still have a problem funding something that will only serve certain services in the County,” Danielsen said.

But Pielsticker argued that other Countyfunded tourism initiatives and festivals are only available to businesses who pay to be involved.

“There are lots of other expenses that do not promote the County as a whole and ask for much more money than this.” Pielsticker said. He also mentioned how tourists and locals exploring with the app would filter tourism dollars to businesses around the County – even if they weren’t involved in the project.

Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts voiced her support for helping to fund the program.

“There are lots of organizations where you have to be a member to take advantage of opportunities: I’m really excited about this,” Roberts said.

A ‘digital concierge’

The app is available across all phone platforms and provides more features and depth than a map platform such as Google Maps. Users can find out local history of landmarks, listen to audio descriptions and dive into local adventures through themed tours.

Pielsticker said that Adventure Haliburton will use the app as a “digital concierge” for adventure activities, restaurants and accommodations.

Craig Bowker, owner of Adventure Haliburton member business Ski-Mazing Watersports School and president of Adventure Haliburton, said Driftscapes could be the key to exposing Haliburton’s wide array of outdoor attractions.

“There’s a lot of locals who still don’t know how much there is to do, and how much is offered here,” Bowker said. “We have adventure activities unparalleled by other municipalities or counties.”

Bowker said COVID-19 restrictions meant a boom in local tourism for his business last summer. He said Driftscape could attract more locals and nearby tourists too – even after COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted.

Driftscape is a software company located in Toronto. Municipalities across Ontario, such as Fenelon Falls and Huntsville, have signed on to the app.

County council requested more information from Adventure Haliburton before deciding if it will contribute funding. If councillors decide not to pitch in funds, Adventure Haliburton will purchase a lower-level subscription from Driftscape which shows fewer points of interest on the map and has fewer interactive options.

With a July 1 launch date in sight, Pielsticker encouraged County council to make a quick decision.

“We would like to know as soon as possible if we can do this with your funding or if we’ll have to find different ways to move forward,” he said.

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