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Are We There Yet? An Update on Sustainable Tourism
Author Joanne Rodgers
Friday, Oct 27, 2017
Are We There Yet? An Update on Sustainable Tourism
 

The North Bruce Peninsula aims to attract “higher value” travellers as a key component of their sustainable tourism strategy.

 

Over 120 attendees, including representatives from the Municipality of North Bruce Peninsula, Chippewas of Nawash, Saugeen Ojibway Nation Environment Office (SON), Parks Canada, businesses and residents attended the October 18, 2017 meeting at the Tobermory Community Centre to learn about the ongoing tourism initiatives.

 

One outcome of the Sustainable Tourism meeting held a year ago in Lion’s Head was the formation of the NBP Sustainable Tourism Action Plan Steering Committee to address the challenges of the exploding tourism on the Bruce. Members are:

 

  • Brian McHattie, Citizen and Steering Committee Chair

  • Bill Jones, CAO, Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula

  • Griffin Salen, Councillor, Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula

  • Ethan Meleg, Partnering and Engagement Officer, Parks Canada

  • David King, Superintendent, Parks Canada

  • Chris Laforest, Director of Planning and Development

  • Megan Myles, Chair, Bruce Peninsula Environmental Group

  • Kelly McAdam, Tobermory Chamber of Commerce

  • Doran Ritchie, Land Use Planning Coordinator, Saugeen Ojibway Nation

  • Jack Schenk, St. Edmund’s Property Owners

  • Bill Sullivan, CEO, Regional Tourism Organization 7

  • Alex Hogan, Project & Administration Manager, Regional Tourism Organization 7

 

The Committee sought and obtained funding to develop a tourism strategy for the area from Ontario Ministry of Tourism – Regional Tourism Association (RT07) which offered two thirds funding, one-third funding from Parks Canada and another one-third funding by Municipality North Bruce and the County.

 

After a bidding process, the Steering Committee selected tourism consultancy firm Twenty 31 to develop a comprehensive 3 year plan.

 

Mayor Milt McIver expressed his support for the Tourism Sustainability initiative and looks forward to the recommendations. He offered a brief update on the efforts by the Municipality to deal with the influx of tourists, basically a ‘catch-up’ with infrastructure and would like to see more permanent facilities. Actions taken included day and evening shifts garbage and recycling pick-ups, bylaw enforcement throughout Tobermory, working with Parks Canada to regulate and enforce parking, creating a parking lot at Dorcas Bay Road, designating a tour bus parking lot at Hay Bay. Paid parking program exceeded expectations, the $270,000 earned will be reinvested in infrastructure, going directly back to the community.. 4000 free parking passes were issued to local residents. MNBP backed off on paid parking during the shoulder season. Regarding community feedback, paid parking will be re-evaluated this fall. The Cabot Head Lighthouse site will remain close until 2019.

Bill Sullivan of RTO7, explained that from the 2008/9 Ontario Tourism strategy, 13 Regional tourism agencies were created, RT07 incorporates Grey, Bruce and Simcoe counties. RT07 is committed to the sustainable tourism initiative for the long run and will offer support as appropriate for the program and serve as a member of the Steering Committee. They view this effort in North Bruce as leading edge and could serve as a model for other such initiatives.

 

Ethan Meleg, of Parks Canada, said thatwith free entry to the Parks for Canada 150, a lot of time was spent preparing for 2017; timed parking at the Grotto reduced congestion and one-third fewer cars were redirected from the park than last summer. Other initiatives included an active communication campaign - a dedicated web page for the grotto, alerts, social media (twitter/Facebook), Billboards, Radio ads, media releases and interactions with tourism partners. Visitors were directed to the Bruce Peninsula National Park’s Visitor Centre as a first point of contact, doubling the number of visits to the centre. Online reservations for the grotto coming soon, stay tuned! The Parks have also embarked on various infrastructure projects which will wrap-up by 2020, new arrival and departure dock on Flowerpot Island, new visitor facilities and rehabilitation of fen/wetland/lake areas at Singing Sands and construction of Eco-passages at Dorcas Bay to reduce road mortality of species at risk. The Management Planning process is on-going and the sustainable tourism action plan will feed into this process.

 

Another outcome from last year’s meeting, as a response to the many “sticky notes” of feedback, the sense of urgency to do something for the 2017 season and considering the financial and Human Resources limitations, BPEG, Parks Canada , RT07 and SON developed a tourist “manifesto” to educate, offer a consistent message and create brand distinction. These brochures were distributed to businesses to be displayed and handed out to visitors. If you have any feedback on the brochure, please let BPEG know since they are preparing for the 2018 publication.

 

Oliver Martin of Twenty31 stated that tourism challenges are consistent across the world, there is over capacity in summer and at Christmas, too many tourists going to too few places; if MNBP can attract “higher value” travellers, disperse tourists throughout the area and lengthen its tourist season, this could be a key driver for economic development.

Mr. Martin is a specialist in primary research with a background in destination branding and travel consumer behaviour. His associates from Twenty 31 include Greg Klaasen, former CEO of the Canadian Tourism Commission, specializing in the links between sustainable tourism development and economic development; Ray Freeman has expertise in tourism asset assessment and is a professor at Royal Roads University's School of Tourism Management; and Alexis Kereluk is the project manager and research analyst.

Oliver explained that the name of his firm alludes to the $3 trillion in tourism export revenues and 2 billion tourists by 2031. Asia Pacific is the fastest growing source of tourists, with China being the second largest source market for Canada. Canada is on China’s Approved Destination Status List, thus allowing Chinese nationals to visit Canada. However, 90 per cent of travellers within Ontario are residents of the province – with the majority of the peninsula’s visitors coming from the GTA, Hamilton and the Kitchener-Waterloo.

 

He suggests we need to focus on “Travellers” - people who want to experience a local, authentic vacation, willing to pay a premium to go to a natural, pristine site, stay at a hotel where the staff are paid a living wage and eat at restaurants where local ingredients are served, stay longer, spend more. “Tourists” are the mass market, people who get on that bus tour, come for a day, bring their own lunch and fill up their gas tank in the GTA, spend little or no money here.

 

If tourism does not provide decent jobs, fair wages, interactive cultural exchanges and other economic and social benefits then the tourists are just using our asset for free.

We need to create signature experiences, highlight our unique selling points, create a seasonal balance, looking at opportunities such as cross country skiing, viewing the northern lights, activities for Fall and Winter.

Using a 4 phase process of Discovery, Engagement, Assessment and Activation, the consultants will look at the area’s key assets, where tourists travel, stay, hike and identify other avenues to develop to take pressure off the most congested sites.

They will interview members of tourism businesses, local government and community groups. Community Engagement will be solicited via a stakeholder survey and workshops will be held with the Steering committee to develop the strategy within an iterative and collaborative process.

We were told that as a community, we have to be loud and clear on what is important to us, be it alvars or rattlesnakes or tourist traffic on our street, and to respond to the survey, so our concerns can be reflected in the plan. It was clarified that Twenty 31 was not tasked with increasing tourism, but since the tourists will always come, how we manage the situation is important to allow us to create economic development and protect the environment.

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