Balance will be key as local stakeholders work to implement the Beaver Valley sustainable tourism strategy, says a county official.
The strategy, which has been in the works over the past eight months, was formally unveiled to Grey County council at its meeting on Oct. 26.
Council received and adopted the strategy, but stopped short of approving county staff taking the next step to develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Town of The Blue Mountains, the Municipality of Grey Highlands and Regional Tourism Organization 7: BruceGreySimcoe to move the strategy into the formal implementation stage.
At the request of The Blue Mountains Mayor Andrea Matrosovs, the county deferred the MOU portion of the resolution until after the county’s 2024 budget process is complete. Council voted for staff to bring back a report with more details and a draft memorandum of understanding to a future meeting.
The strategy will be presented to the councils of The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands in the coming weeks.
Savanna Myers, the county’s director of economic development, tourism and culture and project consultant Camilo Montoya-Guervara presented the strategy at the meeting and outlined its vision and goals. The strategy was developed with extensive consultation with key stakeholders that included a survey, table talks, field visits (winter and summer) and director interviews.
In her presentation, Myers stressed the importance of balance as the plan evolves into its next phase.
“Everyone needs to be able to see themselves in the strategy, respect the need for each stakeholder and project partners need to take a leadership role to create and maintain balance,” Myers said in her report.
The vision in the strategy states: “The Beaver Valley provides a world-class experience for visitors and locals alike, all of whom value the spectacular geography of the region and respect the need to create a long-term legacy of economic and social vibrancy and environmental sustainability.”
The strategy also identifies two key opportunities with their own goals and objectives. They are:
Myers said it’s important to move forward with the strategy, because tourism demands are only going to increase. She said across the county 10,000 employees are directly impacted by tourism through more than 5,400 businesses. The county is nearing three million visitors each year with tourism spending topping $222 million. She said there is a lot of work to be done to ensure that the tourism experience in Beaver Valley is a good one for visitors and residents.
“Good tourism development takes a really long time. It doesn’t happen overnight,” said Myers. “This is just the beginning.”
Members of county council praised the report and were pleased with its findings.
Matrosovs said she was happy to see a focus on both the visitor and resident experiences.
“I very much appreciate the reference to balance,” she said, adding that she wanted to see more references to the agriculture industry in the strategy.
Grey Highlands Deputy Mayor Dane Nielsen said he has heard local residents express “fear” over what might happen in the future as the local region grows as a destination and said he liked that the strategy was being presented as a balanced opportunity for all.
“There is positivity to what’s happening,” said Nielsen. “I’m very excited about what’s being presented.”
Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen said tourism would remain a key economic driver and he was happy to see efforts being made to work towards improving local infrastructure for when visitors come. McQueen said it was important for the county, the two municipalities and the regional tourism organization to work together to improve local infrastructure. He cited two attractions in his community – Old Baldy and Hogg’s Falls – where parking and other amenities need to be improved.
McQueen said moving forward with the strategy would be key for the economy as a whole.
“We’d be a different place if we didn’t have people coming to our area and spending money,” he said.
Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca