Dufferin County Council approves Tourism Strategy and Action Plan recommendations

December 17, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After six months of development, Dufferin County Council has approved a five year Tourism Strategy and Action Plan prepared by consulting company, Bannikin Travel and Tourism.  

Terrilyn Kunopaski, director at Bannikin Travel and Tourism, presented a final report including 30 recommendations for the county’s tourism industry, to councillors at their meeting last Thursday (Dec. 10).

At the beginning of the presentation Kunopaski spoke about the process in creating the strategy and action plan, from its kick-off in June 2020 to the three-phase approach used to create the report.

“We started with a market and industry analysis and this included background research and comparable analysis,” explained Kunopaski. “We looked at Perth County, Peterborough, the Kawarthas, Norfolk County, Huron County and the finding of that comparable analysis informed our recommendations and also offered some validation to the direction we thought most appropriate for Dufferin.”

Kunopaski also touched on the value of a strategic tourism plan, noting the overcrowding and long line up of cars that have been experienced at Mono Cliffs.  

“This is a really good preview of the challenges that can come with unmanaged tourism development and really points to the need for this focused plan to manage visitor growth,” she said. “Having this plan is one part of the solution to managing the situation at Mono Cliffs first of all and second of all avoiding similar situations at other assets in the future.”

In the development of the plan, Bannikin had six areas of focus for their recommendations to address the needs of tourism in the County. A key recommendation brought up by the consultant was the establishment of a full-time tourism manager, a Tourism Advisory Committee, and a new trend known as a tourism pledge.

“It allows regions to really tap into people who have similar values. I think we can agree that we don’t want to send a message and call everybody in and say ‘welcome to Dufferin.’ We want to have a very targeted message and speak to a very targeted type of visitor who can respect and appreciate the natural assets and the creative community,” said Kunopaski.

The five-year plan created by Bannikin Travel and Tourism is to have Dufferin County as an emerging destination by 2026, said Kunopaski. Features that are looking to be used or enhanced as tourism experiences include agritourism, outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling, and local arts and culture.

“One of the recommendations is a public art strategy, expanding the opportunities, leveraging the creative community that exists in Dufferin to take the public art and have that as a focal point throughout the County,” said Kunopaski.

Dufferin County began consulting with Bannikin following the end of their contract with Headwater Tourism Association. In September 2019 Dufferin County Council chose not to renew its $90,000 per year contact with Headwaters Tourism Association, ending the 25 year partnership, following a report from the department of Planning, Economic Development and Culture.

Following the presentation Warden Darren White said the county was looking forward to putting the plan for tourism into motion. 

Coun. Janet Horner noted the “realistic goals” of the plan for tourism in Dufferin County.

With the Tourism Strategy and Action Plan approved Karisa Downey, economic development officer, told the Free Press that the County is working towards establishing the tourism manager role.

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