My wife, Trish, is back from the U.K.! To catch you up, my much better half has been in Birmingham, England since early October 2021 as part of the Organizing Committee for the Commonwealth Games. Back here on the home front, it has been me, my three boys and a never-ending stream of their friends for the past 10 months. At one point I commented that they were treating our place like a frat house. Quick as a whip, Gavin (now 19) said, “Dad, it’s not a frat house. We are calling it our country club! It is very exclusive to our friends, and we are even talking about getting membership cards.” I asked him why he thought it was a country club and his response was, “Because we have a man-servant living here.” It was too quick and funny for me to actually get annoyed. Needless to say, Trish’s return (the kids gave her the country club title of “Health and Safety”) means that some adjustments need to be made. Some have been easy, some have met with a bit more resistance, but all are worth it in the end.
Making adjustments is nothing new to our industry. Our organization makes them every year to better support you in achieving your goals. This year has been a prime example. Last week I met with The Honourable Helena Jaczek, the Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. She wanted to meet to learn more about the Regional Tourism Organization model and how we connect with communities and stakeholders. I was really impressed with her understanding of destination development and how a collection of smaller players working together can have as big an impact as a huge festival. We talked about the Tourism Relief Fund that we are administering on behalf of FedDev and how it has been a big adjustment for our organization to manage the portfolio. I spoke about how the rules that govern the fund have been more cumbersome than we are used to and that we would happily do it again year after year if it meant that we could, through them, provide additional support to every one of our stakeholders. We would make the adjustment to make it work.
I then met with Minister Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, to discuss some of the challenges faced by stakeholders when it comes to employee recruitment and retention. The table was filled with business owners, and senior tourism and post-secondary education leaders. We discussed possible ways that government and organizations like ours, as well as colleges, universities and other institutions, could help businesses like yours and your neighbour’s attract and keep great people. Several of the business owners spoke of the adjustments they have made to ensure they have a full compliment of staff ready to provide guests with a great experience. There was lots of talk about marketing and reaching out to students at a younger age so they could learn about the opportunities our industry presents. I chimed in and said that more than marketing and outreach, what is really needed is an adjustment in the general perception of service industry work. For some reason, in Ontario at least, being a service worker is considered something you do until you get your career. That is where the adjustment needs to be made. There are many, many people who make a career out of bartending, cooking, working in a hotel, etc., right here within Central Counties. Maybe we should be highlighting them as examples of what the service industry provides and shift the perspective. It is a much bigger hurdle to tackle, but if we can make that perception adjustment, it will be for the betterment of the industry.
The point is that humans are predisposed to being able to make adjustments. From adjusting your driving route to avoid traffic to adjusting your workday when your child is sick to bigger adjustments like when you get a new job. We know how to make them. And when it is either necessary and/or creates a positive outcome, we have the ability to make them quickly and effectively. What we don’t often do is reflect on and give ourselves a pat on the back for our ability to make adjustments that make a difference. I am ridiculously proud of my team who have stepped up this year, adjusting their time and priorities to help administer the Tourism Relief Fund. I think it is great that FedDev Ontario adjusted how they do things and entrusted us to deliver their program for them. Now if I can only get my boys to adjust to the Director of Health and Safety being back and put away their dishes…