February RSS Advertorial

Residential Sentiment Survey - Advertorial #2

You may have seen the recent Resident Sentiment Survey (RSS) that was shared online in December. Over the next few months, we will use this space to provide details about the findings of this survey and how it assists us in making decisions for the development of tourism in Haliburton County. In this second installment of six, we look at community-based tourism – what it is and why it matters.

Community-based tourism is one of the most significant parts of the tourism industry and key to destination sustainability. Despite their importance, communities are often overlooked in tourism, something we are looking to change here in Haliburton County. We believe tourism should serve as a tool to improve destination development and locals’ quality of life.

The Destination Management Plan (DMP), supported by the recent RSS and the answers we received as part of it, identified community-based tourism to sustainably and responsibly build the Haliburton Highlands as a year-round destination, encouraging deeper connections between residents (both permanent and seasonal) and visitors, while also promoting environmental protection, social responsibility, and the enhancement of livelihoods.

Research shows that visitors don’t return to the same destination to feel like tourists. They return because they want to feel like they’re part of a community. They are also looking for authentic experiences that create benefits locally. Optimizing a visitor’s connection with the local community is the foundation for any DMP, and it is integral to the community-based tourism model that we are working to implement.

Some of the benefits of this type of model are:

• Facilitates local employment

• Directly benefits locals financially

• Is relatively easy to develop with the right network

• Creates and empowers resilient and strong communities

• And many more

In the RSS, one of the questions centred on what activities respondents had engaged with in the Haliburton Highlands over the last 12 months. Going out to a restaurant or bar, visiting local shops, using lakes and waterways, using a trail, and visiting an artist studio were among the top results, which is no surprise. These are also the activities visitors to our community appreciate and engage in. The community-based tourism model amplifies, enhances, supports, and builds upon these common interests.

Here are a couple of comments we received as part of the RSS that support involving the community more as we look to grow and enhance the visitor economy in a responsible manner:

“The Haliburton Highlands need to put a lot of effort into finding its identity and getting residents to understand & appreciate the value of visitor tourism. Haliburton feels like a county that doesn't really know what it is. Residents need to understand that they are an important part of making Haliburton a destination. People make the place what it is; people make Haliburton.”

“I think the Highlands is a wonderful treasure, and we need to be careful to develop the tourism with long term sustainability (both ecologically and from a business sense) in mind.”

People want to visit a destination for the exact same reasons that people want to live in a destination. Only through deep development of Haliburton County as a year-round tourism destination in concert with the community can meaningful competitive advantages be developed.

Stay tuned for more details on the survey feedback, including what we’ve learned and how we plan to put that information into action. In the meantime, if you have any questions at all, please get in touch with Tracie Bertrand, Manager of Tourism for Haliburton County, at tbertrand@haliburtoncounty.ca.

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