Tourism, the Pandemic and 2021

February 11, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sandy Brown

While large scale travel will be one of the last areas of our economy to reopen, domestic tourism – daytrips, staycations, and general travel within or close to home will be the first signs of travel that we will enjoy in 2021.

Over the past year, Orangeville has understood the value of opening our splash pads, creating movie and music drive-in events while fresh local produce and goods are still found at the Farmer’s Market. Many events went virtual, keeping us entertained and connecting us to each other and our community. Hats off Theatre Orangeville for their creativity over the past several months

As we look forward to warmer weather and health restrictions beginning to ease, we will be able to enjoy outdoor activities, and after a year of pandemic living, exploring our own backyard and places close to home will be a welcome activity. This also applies to guests who want to explore our area and the local experiences that we may take for granted.

The Visitor Economy that Continues to Grow

A new group of tourism users has emerged who are demanding different activities, experiences and approaches to tourism. They are saying no to lounging by the pool and searching for adventures, including active recreation and want to see their money contributing to the local economy.

Canada’s tourism sector is proving to be a driver of the Canadian economy: it contributes to economic growth and creates opportunities and jobs.

A strong in-country market accounts for 86% of overnight stays across Canada and 74% of overnight stays are Ontario residents travelling within their home province, before covid and the restrictions it brought.

Canadian residents love to staycation, taking overnight trips to explore their country. In fact, 35% of all Canadian tourism spending happens here, in Ontario, where tourism receipts top $34 billion.

Tourist Attractions in Our Backyard

Not only do we enjoy our thriving community, but our arts and culture, recreation and culinary scene continue to grow and gain wider recognition throughout the GTA and Golden Horseshoe areas.

Whether you start your day at Island Lake with a walk, bike tour, a visit to the new Children’s Playscape, fishing or paddleboarding – or with coffee and pastry Downtown, there is plenty to explore! Unique shops on Broadway, Theatre Orangeville, The Art Walk of Tree Sculptures, Utility Art Box and public art displays are just a few attractions we have to offer.

Tour groups, day trippers and experience seekers are attracted by our historical, artistic small Town with interesting retail, food and outdoor spaces that offer full day experiences.

Orangeville also acts as a gateway to the surrounding areas and destinations such as the Museum of Dufferin, Alton Mills, Adamo Estates Winery, Mono Cliffs Park and many rural and farming activities.

Navigating Travel in 2021

For now, events look different. People can expect masks and physical distancing to remain with us and continued restrictions on large gatherings, but we need to be positioned to make the most of the new trends to boost our economy.

Consumer confidence is a growing trend defined by economic development professionals, Chambers of Commerce and destination organizations that have worked together to determine emerging trends specific to travel within and close to your community post pandemic.

The potential for Orangeville and Dufferin County to embrace tourism is excellent. We need to look at unique ideas to get this Town moving again, so we are ready to run when appropriate. We also need to carefully consider what makes Orangeville a great place to visit and think strategically about what type of visitors we want to attract and how we can succeed in this competitive market.

Many ideas have been discussed previously, including creating full-day trip itineraries for visitors, sports tournament opportunities, closing the Downtown for designated pedestrian shopping days and creating a Central Town Square. While only some of the ideas will turn into projects, no actions will be taken without consultation with key stakeholders and seeking public input.

Travellers will demand a more thoughtful approach to where they visit and how they spend their money. Supporting small businesses, experience travel or “living like a local,” and providing an exceptional experience will be driving factors in our success.

Also, we need to ensure safety and transparency are paramount to all tourism activities. Clear regulations and expectations regarding masks, physical distancing and safeguarding our residents against overcrowding will need to be developed, monitored and communicated.

Creating new opportunities

Focusing on tourism creates opportunities for entrepreneurs to establish new services and products or facilities that would not be sustainable based on the local population of residents alone. Tourists are all potential customers, and with the right approach, they can be targeted in a business strategy that allows for fantastic success.

We need to develop a collaborative approach to tourism and create partners to build and deliver integrated, research-driven marketing programs that reinforce Orangeville as a strong economy and a four-season travel destination.

Both the Town of Orangeville and Dufferin County have budgeted for new Tourism Specialists to lead us and create a robust Tourism Economy for our area. We are looking forward to exciting ideas in 2021!

Orangeville has grown into a cultural hub with artists, writers, a robust live music scene, events and natural parks and recreational destinations. Discover an impressive list of things to see and do. Explore a unique collection of shops and eateries. Orangeville offers more than you expect!

This council is listening – reach out to me or any member of council with your ideas!

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