I brag about you a lot – to my peers, our funders, and especially to my friends. “Yeah right”, you are thinking. “With almost a thousand people reading the newsletter per month, he is bragging about me specifically.” That is a valid point, but even I surprise myself with how many of you and/or your businesses I am familiar with. So, more specifically, I speak with pride and admiration about our core stakeholder groups; the businesses that create compelling reasons to visit, the municipal staff and council that work to connect the dots to become vibrant destinations, and our regional staff and council that create new opportunities for their stakeholders and amplify their stories across the province and beyond.
As a business owner myself, I revel and am energized by the creative fortitude and resolve our tourism businesses have demonstrated over the past few years. I continue to share with my RTO peers examples of business-led experiences that have you reaching outside your normal comfort zones, making investments – during a very uncertain time – to create new experiences or banding together to develop and invest in new tour routes. You have decided to take control of your own fate, not counting on anyone else to be responsible for your success. It is what has to be done and I believe you are doing it more than any other region in the province. I hold you and your collaborative experiences up as a best practice that we should all strive towards.
I think one of the best things we have ever done as an organization is offering to facilitate Community Tourism Plans for municipalities. Whether through us, or other consultants, over 1/3 of all of the municipalities within York, Durham, and Headwaters have a roadmap that lays out what tourism success looks like for them and how they plan on moving the needle towards it. The wins from this have been incredible. New investments. New dedicated staff. New understanding of the importance of visitors for the vibrancy of the community. We talk about your successes with our provincial funders all the time, demonstrating that the money they are providing is a successful investment that continues to grow tourism investment and receipts. Your work at the municipal level also helps all of the businesses in your community. You connect businesses together, creating a destination that brings in new people to spend their time and money. One of the obvious outcomes of that is that more staff are required in the businesses the visitors are frequenting. A less obvious outcome is the number of visitors who are enamoured by what your town has to offer and decide to move in. Corporations and other businesses then look at the local workforce potential and decide to set up operations. All of this because you, as staff and council of your municipality, are making a conscious effort to make your community vibrant. Your investments continue to have an exponential return.
Central Counties Tourism also has some unique bragging rights because of our amazing Regional Tourism partners. Typically, support for tourism skips from the municipal level to the RTO level. We are unique in that Durham Region and Dufferin County understand the economic impact tourism has. They invest in both staff and resources to support businesses and municipalities in building their capacity and creating compelling destinations under a regional umbrella brand. Working hand-in-hand with our Regional Tourism partners strengthens the overall support we can provide you. We, collectively, are lucky to have such forward-thinking regional governments and dedicated, passionate regional staff moving the tourism agenda forward.
You may have also been wondering why I would brag about you to my friends. Well, the answer is pretty simple. Most of my friends have a really tough time understanding what I do for a living. Thankfully, most of the population, including my friends, are on the other side of the curtain when it comes to tourism. That means they get to experience a destination with wide-eyed wonder, not truly understanding all of the effort it took in the background to first create the experience, and then ensure they specifically learned about it in such a way that compelled them to get off the couch and visit. Just as a quick aside, Mike from Canada’s Wonderland and I teach a course at Durham College called Attractions Operations. In the very first class, we explain to students that they are going to learn a lot and will never be able to see an attraction the same way ever again. For our last class, our friends at Reptilia in Whitby were kind enough to host the class and allow our students to follow their staff as they completed their pre-opening routines. They got to see firsthand all of the work and effort that goes into making the operations of the facility look simple and seamless to the visitors. One of them commented that since starting the course, every time they have walked into an attraction, all they are thinking about are the processes and procedures that must be in place to operate the place. I love it!
Anyway, what I talk about with my friends with such pride are the experiences and destinations you are creating – so much so that they often make plans to come see you. They still don’t fully understand how we helped and that is okay too, because it is not about us. The success is yours.
I have been working at Central Counties for 10 years and I want to thank you for helping us continue to push the envelope year after year. We have an incredible Board of Directors who support us as we push to provide support for you to grow your capacity for success. Our 2023-2024 Business Plan has been approved and you can read link to a summary here. I know the start of the next fiscal is still months away, but another thing I love being able to brag about is that our stakeholders are always on the horizon, looking ahead for new opportunities to help them achieve their goals.
I wish you, your friends and family the very best of the holiday season and am looking forward to reconnecting in the new year.