Staff in the Planning & Development Department have been busy working towards an update of the County’s Tourism Master Plan. While we have enjoyed much success since its adoption, it is time to step back, reflect on how far we've come and see where we need to go over the next few years. You might even be reading this on a tablet such as an iPad. When Hastings County approved the Tourism Master Plan in 2009, the Apple iPad didn't even exist yet.
Tourism Development Coordinator Kasey Rogerson led the first phase of this review by organizing four focus groups throughout March & April with different stakeholders, including industry operators and organizations, municipalities, Destination Marketing Organizations, and Regional Tourism Organizations. Karen Fischer from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs helped facilitate these sessions.
Now that we have heard from stakeholders, we move into phase two (the analysis phase). We have hired Terra Consulting to review existing tourism and related plans and documents, research current and forecasted tourism trends, and bring in the public feedback we collected from our focus groups to develop an updated Tourism Master Plan for the County.
The final draft plan will be presented to stakeholders for feedback in late May/early June to ensure that the direction fits the industry. It will also be presented to County Council for final approval and adoption. The reviewed plan will provide direction on where we want to be five years from now and what we need to do to get there.
“Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.” - Khalil Gibran
Once the plan has been approved, it will be put into action immediately. It is also important to recognize local capacity and human resources to implement the recommendations. A major first step will be to meet with local stakeholders including member municipalities, tourism businesses and other stakeholders to make sure they're aware of the new Plan and discuss implementation. There is also a proposal to undertake a formal tourism operator survey to determine the capacity of the tourism industry as a whole and how we can best assist at the municipal level. The feedback gathered will allow for the County to develop its own action plan and provide next steps for following the direction of the Tourism Master Plan.