Recently, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce released a report called: Closing the Tourism Gap on our provincial tourism sector. Some have asked why the Chamber is writing about tourism and the answer is simple: many tourism based businesses in our area are Chamber members and many are small businesses. In the global economy, tourism is an area of growth with 9 percent of global GDP and supporting one in 11 jobs (Closing the Tourism Gap 2016). One of the main points in the Chamber report is that globally international travel has been increasing and Ontario has not been able to attract visitors at the same pace.
In its recently released strategic framework on tourism called Growing Ontario Together, the province also recognizes the need to tap into the increasing number of international visitors. As the province works through its
strategy, the Chamber report makes nine recommendations to ensure that Ontario doesn’t miss out. Both reports reference the fact that international travelers stay longer, spend more and often, because of a great experience, become our ambassadors.
The recommendations from the business community include:
- Develop a government-wide Ontario tourism strategy with measurable targets
- Work with relevant partners to improve the timeliness of tourism data dissemination, specifically related to visitor spending, as well as the scope of available tourism data
- Work with industry to more clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the province’s tourism organizations
- Work with tourism operators to reduce regulatory and cost burdens, and add tourism to the Red Tape Challenge
- Support industry efforts to address the labour shortage by prioritizing workforce development. The government should establish a Tourism Industry Table as part of its Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy
- Incorporate tourism considerations into provincial infrastructure investments
- Improve Ontario’s air travel cost competitiveness by reducing the aviation fuel tax
- Leverage the potential of the sharing economy to expand tourism by promoting consistent easy-to-follow rules across Ontario
- Create greater consistency and predictability in provincial tourism marketing funding by moving to a multi-year funding model
The provincial government has now committed to include the tourism sector in the Red Tape Challenge, but specific dates and timelines have not been identified.
The issue of timely data on the sector was also a common thread through discussions at the provincial level. The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport recently released the tourism statistics from 2014. Traditionally, statistics are two years behind the current year.
Among the available statistics is the Economic Impact of Tourism in Ontario for 2014 which shows visitor spending in the province to be almost $24 billion.
Where does the Peterborough area fit in? Provincially, Peterborough is part of Regional Tourism Organization 8 (RTO8). The City and County are also served by the local tourism office - Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism - which is also the Destination Marketing Organization for Peterborough.
“As an active member of the tourism community in Ontario, we're glad to see so many organizations involved in the call to improve the timeliness of tourism data dissemination, particularly as it related to visitation and spending, “says Rhonda Keenan, President & CEO of Peterborough Economic Development.
The tools used to draw people to our area are just as important as having timely data to tell us who is coming, how they’re coming and what they do when they get here.
“We were pleased to have been part of the background discussions for this report with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce through the Peterborough Chamber,” says Brenda Wood, Executive Director of Kawarthas Northumberland. “We are happy to see the report includes a recommendation for the provincial government to move to a multi-year funding model for provincial tourism marketing funding. The consistency and predictability of such a model would help us in the marketing and promotion of the region and its businesses.”
The nine recommendations above, starting with a comprehensive strategy with clear and measurable targets for growth, are a map that reflects the industry’s needs and supports. Global growth in tourism is projected to grow until at least 2030, and the province has committed to meeting or exceeding 3.3 percent growth in international visits over the next five years, so there is significant opportunity for tourism businesses to tap into and stay competitive in the international destination race.