Yesterday, I had the privilege to present at two meetings. Both meetings consisted of business owners, municipal staff, regional staff and Central Counties. Both meetings were about the development of a new project. And both meetings were completely different in terms of atmosphere and productivity.
I spent a good portion of the evening reflecting on the meetings and why they were so different and I think it boils down to people’s understanding of the role and function of tourism and the players within the industry. There is more need for collaboration within the tourism industry than any other industry I can think of. Successful collaboration has to further the mandates of all partners, which at times means focusing just on the areas where their priorities meet.
Tourism is an economic industry. The bottom-line for tourism is the bottom-line: How much new money is flowing in because of increased visitation to individual businesses within a community, which is part of a municipality, which is part of a region, which is part of Central Counties, which is part of the Province of Ontario in Canada.
No one is responsible for the success or failure of a business other than its ownership group. This is a given in almost every other industry I can think of, but is a concept some struggle with within the tourism industry. I have never heard of a car dealership blaming their failure on the town because they are not attracting the right type of residents that want to buy their vehicles. The Canadian Tire in Georgetown does not expect the City of Brampton to be promoting them. These are two expectations I heard yesterday from tourism operators.
Car dealerships are a great example of operator collaboration. They actively seek to place their dealerships close together and then use some of each of their budgets to market the “auto mall” outside of the region because they are now an auto shopping destination. I remember listening to a radio commercial for the Erin Mills Auto Mall talking about the people from out of town that were coming to buy their vehicles. The point of the commercial was to let the locals know that they make the visit worthwhile, whether you are driving one kilometre or a thousand.
In terms of role and function in tourism for municipalities and regional municipalities, the most important thing to remember is that their efforts are confined to boundaries. Tourism at a municipal level has a positive effect in three ways: 1.) It brings new money to the existing businesses, 2) It can bring new businesses to town (success begets success), and 3) It increases the number of residents. A vibrant town, full of activities that people are willing to travel for to see, is also a place where people want to live.
Each municipality will invest, partner and collaborate on projects that are destined to increase the impact within their borders. That is their mandate – to support their business operators. Municipalities build brands and help create a critical mass of activities and products to help bring visitors from further away.
The regional municipality or its tourism designate is called a Destination Management Organization (DMO). Like the municipality, they want to increase the economic impact from tourism to businesses within their boundaries. DMO’s are able to provide assistance to both stakeholders and municipalities, often filling resource gaps and connecting the dots. Because they are at a more macro level, they connect stakeholders from different municipalities, which allows them to attract people from even further away for multi-day visits. DMO’s are able to develop a regional brand, which supports all of the stakeholders and municipalities. And, like an auto-mall, each municipality often uses part of its resources to support regional projects.
Central Counties works with stakeholders, municipalities and DMO’s within its borders to help them achieve success by providing tools and resources that increase tourism readiness. We support the efforts of the municipalities and DMO’s and work with them to find the best stories and content, which will pique the interest of people and motivate them to visit. We are also the conduit to the provincial tourism marketing agency – Destination Ontario.
The one thing we hear a lot is that stakeholders are confused about who to reach out to. To be truly successful, you have to stay in contact with everyone. You should be working with other businesses in your community to see if you can create new experiences, or at the very least, promote each other to your loyal followings. You should work with your municipality to make sure they are talking about you. You should connect with your DMO to see how you can be part of their incredible programs. You should talk with Central Counties to see how we can help arm you with the tools to grow your businesses. It takes work. But successful business owners/operators take the time because they know it is worth it.
Both of yesterday’s meetings moved the agenda along and got each group one step closer to their goals. The big difference was that the group that understood role and function, and who believed we were all in it together for mutual benefit, were able to focus their discussion on how to achieve the goals of the project, whereas the group who didn’t spent a lot more time focused on who does what. Having said that, by the end of the meeting, I believe there was much more clarity and I expect the next meeting to be more productive and focused on achieving results.
Connecting is key, and on March 30th Central Counties Tourism is hosting the best connection event of the year. Not only does the 2020 Tourism Symposium, presented by Tourism Vaughan Corporation, provide a day’s worth of actionable learning, it also gives you a great opportunity to connect with peers, municipal staff and your DMO. I urge you all to take a day to further your business. Click Here to register.
This introduction does feel a little soap-boxy. However, my gut was saying that there may be many more stakeholders out there who may not fully understand who does what or who to talk to. Talk to us all!! I am always available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and look forward to hearing from you.
See you on March 30th!