Building a ‘tourism factory’



Changing the way people feel about tourism is the driving idea behind the municipality’s tourism and destination management plan.

The 72-page report is the result of a year’s worth of work involving consultants Brain Trust Marketing and Communications and the Chatham-Kent Tourism stakeholders Advisory Council and local businesses, residents and municipal staff.

Chatham Mazda from Chatham Voice on Vimeo.

Susanne Spence-Wilkins, co-chair of the Tourism Stakeholders Advisory Council and owner of the Crazy Eight Barn, said the report’s title “Making Shift Happen” describes perfectly the idea behind the work.

“We need to look at tourism as an industry,” she said. “We may not have a bricks and mortar location but this is a real industry. We can’t treat it like a mom and pop roadside stand and expect to see it reach its potential.”

In 2012, tourism in southwestern Ontario was worth $1.6 billion and employed nearly 18,000 people.



Spence-Wilkins said the broad approach of the past in trying to be everything to everyone just dissipated resources.

“You can’t just throw everything at a wall and hope something sticks,” she said. “We need a plan to focus on various stages, complete those and move on to the next.”

She said the report, which goes to council at the end of this month, identified the Black history narrative, fishing and meetings and conventions as areas ready to move forward.

“The fact is these areas have strong potential and are doing well already,” she said.

After that the plan concentrates on First Nations, the War of 1812 and classic cars.

The third segment involves promoting Chatham -Kent’s numerous communities, its agriculture and culinary tourism.

“The fact is we’re not tourism ready in all segments so we need to follow the plan.” she said. “That’s what made the buy-in from all of our partners so important. Without their cooperation, we won’t succeed.”

Spence-Wilkins said she expects the report to be further refined and anticipates council being given information about marketing and costs before the end of the year.

“We’re looking for council’s endorsement and the allocation of appropriate staffing to keep this moving forward,” she said. “The momentum is there, it’s time to take advantage of it.”

The report can be found at and comments about it will be accepted prior to the council meeting of Sept. 28.


  1. First of all we must look like we want people to come back. Clean up our core. When we host special events such as Retro Fest, the down town area should shine. Once again this year the down town looked worn out. Trash bags in doorways, neglected "temporary" road construction signs around our condo development, things like that which cast a negative light on our city.


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