Executive Director Recap November/December

Hands holding leaves

Perspective is everything. In the weeks leading up to my mom’s death last fall, I took her mother, my grandmother, out for lunch to give her a break and see how she was doing. She questioned out loud what terrible things she had done in her life to have to watch a loved one succumb to cancer for a second time – the first being her husband when he was just 42 years old. From her perspective, the enormity of the pain and anguish she was feeling was some sort of punishment.

I saw the situation from a different perspective and suggested that because of the amazing difference she had made in so many people’s lives, she was being rewarded with a long, healthy life. “What 75 year old woman,” I asked, “would ever think she would have a mother still alive to comfort her through such a tough time? And maybe the price you pay for the gift of being there, is the pain of her loss.”

I have been thinking about that conversation a lot lately because I feel that at times over the last eight months I have lost my perspective. At times, I have been critical of all levels of government for not doing more to save the businesses of tourism. It was my lovely wife Trish who finally put things into perspective. And she used a great medical analogy to do it.

As someone who is passionate about the industry and has spent the last 25 years building relationships with amazing people – from staff to business owners – who make this province a wonderful place to live, work and visit, I want every last business to survive. She said that I was like a parent watching his kids suffer. I know what the problem is and exactly what is needed to save them. I see the government as the surgeon and I expect them to go in with laser precision and save each and every business by providing the exact care they need right now.

She said that from her perspective, the government was a triage doctor at a M*A*S*H unit. Every industry in the province and country is a patient and they are all injured. The government is doing everything it can to keep all of the patients alive. Where I am likening the closure of a tourism business to the loss of a child, she sees it as losing a finger to save the patient. That really made me take a step back and re-evaluate. And even though I hate to admit it, she is right.

When the provincial budget came down earlier this month, it was the first time EVER that tourism was singled out for its importance to the economy and provided direct support measures to help the industry survive. Minister MacLeod has ensured that tourism is a priority patient. Not only that, her bedside manner is incredible. She has kept the industry in the loop every step of the way, letting us know what is happening and what the next steps are. I, and others, have been consulted many times to help shape the course of treatment for our ailing industry and we see our recommendations in the announcements and plans.

When I took the time to take a step back and look at the industry in the context of the entire provincial framework, I realized that we are so much farther ahead than we were a year ago. And I don’t think it took a pandemic to get us there. Since she took office, Minister MacLeod has been fighting to ensure that tourism is recognized for the economic and social powerhouse that it is. Her words were being repeated by other ministries in the government and were having a trickle-down effect at the regional and municipal levels. The industry was on a roll.

Tourism was just one victim in a mass casualty event caused by the pandemic. When we come out the other side of this, it is going to be released from hospital covered in scars and missing a few pieces. But it will walk out under its own power for two reasons: 1) the treatment it received; and 2) heart, resilience and sheer stubbornness.

It is time to start looking forward. We have had some promising news about vaccines and therapeutics hitting the markets in 2021. We are entering the winter season at a time when people are looking to get out with their family or bubble. There is an opportunity to turn a traditionally slow period for the industry into a new powerhouse. We can rehabilitate by introducing and re-introducing the beauty of outdoor winter activities to residents and near visitors. And we can increase the effectiveness and spend by working together.

Taking my medical analogy one step further, as we heal, visitors are the industry’s blood, bringing vital nutrients: revenue. More than ever before, it is important to work together to make sure the blood is circulating to every part of the body. There is only so much money they are going to spend at your place, but that doesn’t mean that’s all the money they are willing to spend. You can help get the blood circulating by knowing your neighbours, what they have to offer and directing your guests to them. The more businesses open around you, the bigger the draw to your location. If all the hospitality and tourism businesses in your community are telling their customers to visit you, you have increased your consumer base exponentially and haven’t had to spend a dime. Keep the blood flowing and we will all heal faster.

I was speaking with an amazing stakeholder just this week who was asking for some advice on developing a new winter experience. That is why we are here and I would love you to bounce your ideas off of us. Sometimes the hardest part is the first step of figuring out how to bring your cool idea to life and that is where we can help. Please send me an email at cthibeault@centralcounties.ca and we can set up a time to chat.

As we enter the holiday season, take time with your family and friends to be the blood that helps our industry heal. Starting next week, Trish and I are going out every Tuesday night, with whichever of our kids wants to come, to do something fun that is being offered in our hometown and neighbouring communities. Then we are going to tell all of our friends about each experience, to keep the blood flowing. My bet is that we will have such a great time that this idea will become an annual tradition, even when COVID-19 is a thing of the past.

Best regards,

Chuck