By Barb McKay
A committee is working to engage community members to improve Kincardine’s approach to tourism.
A meeting was held at the Kincardine Centre for the Arts on Friday to discuss why a plan is being developed and what the process will be for creating it. It was the first of three engagement sessions to gain stakeholder input.
“We have the skills right here at home, so let’s use what we have,” committee member Doreen Soloduka told the group Friday. “With many hands we can do a lot for tourism and the local economy.”
Kincardine councillor Ron Coristine, who is also a director with the Penetangore Regional Economic Development Corporation (PREDC), which is assisting with the plan, said Bruce County’s two major economic drivers are agriculture and tourism. He said the tourism plan is a mandate of the recently completed integrated community sustainability plan and stressed that the committee will be putting a major focus on public engagement in determining how Kincardine will handle tourism.
“The idea is that we aren’t working in silos,” Coristine said. “We want to work in an integrated way as much as possible.”
In developing the plan the committee, with the help of community groups, will determine what Kincardine’s biggest assets are to draw tourists, including infrastructure, events, attractions and diversions; everything from the Scottish Festival, to walking trails, gardens and beaches. The committee will also look at how current practices that impact tourism can be improved, such as event policies and partnerships between the municipality and local groups.
Coristine said the committee will determine what assets should be maintained, which ones aren’t beneficial for tourism and what practices should be initiated. He said the key is to make sure Kincardine is doing things to attract tourism that don’t damage the community’s identity.
“Sauble Beach is nice and it’s fun to go there, but it’s not my idea of what Kincardine should become,” Coristine said.
The municipality’s tourism department uses provincial statistics, along with Region 7 (regional tourism) data and Kincardine visitor centre data, to determine how many tourists visit the community annually and how much revenue tourism generates. According to that data, Kincardine saw roughly 105,000 visitors this year, which based on provincial statistics that estimate that same day visitors spend $58 per day on average and overnight visitors spend approximately $173 per day, Kincardine’s tourism industry is more than $26 million.
As tourism is such a high revenue generator for Kincardine, the municipality needs to ensure that there are enough things to keep people coming back, said Steve Murray, the municipality’s community services and special projects co-ordinator.
“The rule of thumb for tourism is if you have someone drive an hour to get here you have to provide four hours activity for them,” he said.
Gerry Taylor, executive director of PREDC, said the committee is developing a tourism asset map in the form of a 12-month calendar that displays when events are taking place.
“It gives us a good overall picture of what’s happening over the year and look at gaps over the winter months to see what we can do,” he said.
The tourism strategic plan is expected to be completed by the end of the year.