The County of Haliburton will embark upon a month-long ‘fall in love with winter’ campaign next February as it looks to expand its Hike Haliburton winter edition.

Manager of tourism, Tracie Bertrand, made the recommendation at a June 14 council meeting and received support.

Bertrand said the campaign will take place the last three weekends of February 2024.

“This will help to capitalize on the increased visitation over Valentine’s Day and the Family Day weekend,” she said. She added in addition to Hike Haliburton, it would incorporate and promote other existing events, such as the Dorset Snowball winter carnival, Abbey Gardens’ cupid carnival, and any others that are taking place.

She said staff would use those existing offerings as “anchors” to encourage stakeholders to develop other products or special promotions the tourism department would help market as part of the ‘fall in love with winter’ campaign. She is also encouraging continued cross-promotion of events and experiences.

“Data results indicate a strong interest from the public on other events and happenings or experiences taking place around Hike Haliburton,” Bertrand noted in a written report. She said they were planning to leverage the Hike Haliburton brand all-year long, update the map and evergreen content, and continue with the added value signature picnic backpack program, to encourage people to stay overnight at accommodations in what is otherwise a very quiet time.

She said planning for the ‘fall in love with winter’ campaign will begin in October.

As for last year’s hike, Bertrand said there was a renewed interest among hike leaders in offering unique hikes, including a full-moon hike in -32C weather. There were also new hikes at Crane Lake and in the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands provincial park.

She noted visits to the Hike Haliburton website increased 66 per cent from January 2020 to January 2023. As for attendees, about one-third came from outside of the County, including Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough, the GTA, Hastings, Barrie, Central Ontario and Guelph.

Resident Sentiment Survey

Bertrand also discussed results of a resident sediment survey (RSS), “to establish and benchmark local attitudes towards tourism growth, the visitor economy, and tourism development,” in the County for the next five years.

She said information collected through the annual process will be used to help guide her departments’ annual work plan “to ensure the opinions of residents are being considered when looking at the growth and development of tourism and the visitor economy in the County.”

She noted the RSS was in the County’s Destination Management Plan.

In analyzing results, Bertrand said they had 592 responses, including 74 per cent permanent, and 24 per cent seasonal residents. She said an average of 8.3 out of 10 said the Highlands was a “very attractive place to visit.” In addition:

• 68 per cent agree the County should invite more visitors throughout the year.

• 68 per cent do not rely on the visitor economy for their household income.

• 43 per cent of 18 to 44-year-olds do rely on it for one to 50 per cent of thei household income.

• 66 per cent agree the visitor economy is respectful of them and their community.

• 63 per cent agree tourism increased quality of life.

• 85 per cent agree the visitor economy supports local business;

• 65 per cent agree the visitor economy has a positive impact on the economy.

• The level of familiarity with the County’s tourism department was 4.6 out of 10.

Bertrand said there were “excellent” comments to open-ended questions, such as, “residents need to understand they are an important part of making Haliburton a destination. People make the place what it is; people make Haliburton.” Another was, “as a local business owner, I feel like all we hear is how tourism somehow damages Haliburton. I can tell you, that without tourism and seasonal residents, local businesses like ours would not survive.”