How do you get a group of tourism stakeholders to agree on the best way to market Chatham-Kent?
You don’t. But you do get a heck of a lot of input.
“It was a lively meeting,” Michael Burton, director of economic development for the municipality, said of a gathering of about 40 stakeholders at Club Lentina’s Feb. 27. “But it is difficult to get any consensus out of a bunch of individual business owners. We had a lot of different views, with no consistent theme.”
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Burton said municipal staff sought feedback on proposed tourism sector plans for 2014. They got just that, but it was all over the map.
One area where there was consistent interest was the development of a tourism advisory committee, he said. About 15 people who attended the meeting are interested.
“The committee would provide ongoing feedback on our plans,” he said. “We hope for continued input from the committee. We want them to understand what we are trying to achieve, and we need to know whether we are having a good, positive impact for them.”
The committee’s first meeting is set for mid-March, Burton said.
In terms of funding, there’s about $400,000 set aside for this year to help market the municipality to potential tourists.
Burton’s presentation at the meeting indicates the municipality wants to target the regional market more aggressively, increase electronic and social media advertising, maximize the impact of limited resources, and increase communication with stakeholders.
Four areas of focus include outdoor adventure, such as fishing and camping; history and cultural attractions; business tourism; and summer fun and festivals.
In terms of delivering information locally, be it to tourists or residents, the tourism office that’s at RM Classic Cars near Highway 401 will remain in place, and Burton will request that council allow a kiosk to go into the Downtown Chatham Centre (DCC).
“They (DCC management) have offered to provide us the space, as well as staffing, and an information touch screen,” Burton said. “That’s really going to help.”
Such a kiosk would bring tourists into the heart of Chatham, and provide easy access to information for visitors who are already downtown, he said.
“It lets people know what there is to do and visit,” Burton said. “Our strategy is to get the tourists here and make sure they know there’s a lot to do when they get here.”
Lets just take a few local attractions, say The RM Exhibit, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Rondeau Provincial Park. I wonder how many C-K residents have ever been to these places?. Would they take summer visitors?