January RSS Advertorial

Resident Sentiment Survey (RSS) - Advertorial #1

You may have seen the recent Resident Sentiment Survey (RSS) that was shared online last month. Over the next six 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 first installment of six, we look at why resident input matters.

In this ‘community of communities’ that make up the Haliburton Highlands, it is important we get the opinions of the people that call this place home, particularly when it comes to tourism. Through the RSS, we heard from many of you on how you view the future of tourism here – from tourism in the region overall, to your thoughts on how well the needs of the community are considered, and much more.

Your input is extremely important when it comes to how we manage the Haliburton Highlands as a destination, as any decisions made about tourism and how we develop it – including the infrastructure and programs designed to support it– may provide very real benefits to your quality of life.

This community-based approach to tourism was first identified in the County’s Destination Management Plan (DMP). In fact, it was flagged as a priority because tourism – and specifically tourism dollars – plays such a vital role in the overall economic and social success of our community.

The Haliburton Highlands relies heavily on the visitor economy. But what has been realized over the course of the pandemic is that it’s vital to identify specific markets, instead of taking an “invite everyone approach” to destination promotion.

The DMP aims to promote the Haliburton Highlands as a premier year-round destination. To do that responsibly, we need to identify what type of visitors to target; to ask ourselves what we, as residents, love so much that visitors would also love, and to target those people directly

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. Optimizing that connection with the community is the foundation of this DMP.

The most important goal for any destination management plan is to drive home the idea that community isn’t something we have… it’s something we do. To build stronger communities based on what residents want, the first step is to understand their goals and values, and to obtain that information from real-time data. That’s why organizations of all sizes are developing resident sentiment surveys that provide the necessary data to benchmark, track, and address evolving public opinion year-over-year.

Through our RSS, we now have a measurable starting point that we can both refer to and build from as we develop sustainable, responsible, and community-based tourism practices where all stakeholders in the community have a say.

In total, 592 residents – full-time and seasonal – participated in the survey, which was online for a total of two weeks. Fully funded by the Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization’s Tourism Relief Fund, the timing on this pilot project was tight but it nonetheless provided us with valuable feedback. Going forward, we plan on releasing a new Resident Sentiment Survey every year for the next four years, with more time (approximately 10-12 weeks) given to complete it to encourage as many people as possible to participate.

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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