Welcome to the bumpy ride that is regional tourism.
A new body meant to co-ordinate provincial tourism funding for all of Niagara is just getting off the ground. But the fledgling Regional Tourism Organization has already stumbled into a controversy over an untendered marketing contract.
Meanwhile, the much-maligned Niagara Economic Development Corp., the regional government-funded agency that runs a separate Tourism Niagara website, is paralyzed by a political debate over its future.
When the dust settles, Niagara is supposed to have a co-operative, industry-led organization designed to cut through the clutter of competing marketing efforts and help co-ordinate an effective, regional tourism strategy.
But right now, some industry members feel “it’s hard to do our job,” said Susan Morin, community economic development manager for Venture Niagara.
Tourism marketing is still happening, of course. St. Catharines is still promoting the Garden City; Niagara Falls is still a well-oiled marketing machine. Regional co-ordination, however, isn’t as visible.
“It’s tough, trying to understand who is the leader here, who is doing what right at this moment,” said Morin, who is helping organize a meeting next week for concerned tourism industry members. “With all the changes, it’s a little bit like the perfect storm.”
Morin, who is also involved with Tourisme Franco-Niagara, said businesses at the April 6 session will talk about ways to replace a tourism marketing committee formerly run by NEDC.
Those brainstorming committee meetings disappeared following regional council’s recent decision to lop off the tourism arm of the economic development agency. Other agency tourism services no longer receiving regional cash include marketing literature for cycling tourism, the Welland Canal recreational trail and a winter and wine campaign, according to interim NEDC head Alan Teichroeb.
Regional councillors re asoned the new Regional Tourism Organization would be coordinating regional marketing efforts from now on. But it’s unclear what will happen to the remaining NEDC services, like the regional tourism website and the Gateway Niagara information centre.
“Some people think with the (Regional Tourism Organization), the calvary is coming,” Morin said. “But whether it is or not, we can’t afford to wait.”
Morin said if the meeting goes well, attending businesses could form a “tourism network” to help plug the gap left by the exit of the regional agency.
But there are more holes to fill, Grimsby and District Chamber of Commerce president John Dunstall said. more…