$50K tourism cut would be ‘fairly damaging’: Wilson

(Newswatch Group/File)

CORNWALL – The executive director says taking $50,000 out of the Cornwall and the Counties Tourism (CCT) budget would be “fairly damaging” for marketing the region.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Linda Wilson says her office had already reduced its staff by one position heading into 2015 budget talks in order to avoid asking for an increase.

The tourism bureau had been conditionally approved for $181,144 this year (the same amount as last year) before the cut was proposed Friday by Coun. Andre Rivettte.

Wilson says she understands the budget committee’s need to review and she’s hoping to be able to explain her case to keep the same funding level.

She says many of their marketing projects have been committed to and paid for. “That’s the nature of the beast when it comes to marketing. I look at it as a retailer…you don’t buy your spring clothes in March,” she said.

Coun. Claude McIntosh questioned the disproportionate funding for tourism. “The city pays the services and the counties get the benefit,” he said Friday. Wilson agrees with the statement but says the formula was determined long before she became executive director. The United Counties pay $80,623 to CCT or 21 per cent of its overall budget. Cornwall’s share is closer to 47 per cent.

“I look at this like a shopping mall…Cornwall is the anchor store and the United Counties – the small towns – are sort of the boutique shops. The counties assets bring the people into the region but they can’t stay anywhere else but in our community (Cornwall),” Wilson said. “You can draw people here but if you can’t fed them, they can’t shop, if they can’t spend the night, then they’re in and they’re gone.”

Wilson says the perfect example is the upcoming International Plowing Match and Expo in Finch. “Our hotel rooms are already full,” she stated.

Coun. Andre Rivette also cast doubt on the priority of tourism compared to other services for taxpayers. Wilson disagrees.

“Tourism is what we call new money in a community. The money is not made here but it’s spent here, which means it brand new dollars, so it’s not a recycling of money,” Wilson said.

“New money is important for new business, for existing businesses and it’s good for the growth of the economy. Every new person who comes into this community, for whatever reason, has an opportunity to see what this city has to offer. How do we know whether that person is a great big businessman who says ‘What a great community, I would like to live here or I might invest in my business,’” Wilson said.

“If we don’t introduce and we don’t show our communities to the outside world, we’re missing the boat. (Whether) it’s that one person, that one small business or that one big business…it’s a window for them to shop.”

Wilson says she was comforted somewhat by learning Friday’s proposed cut was deferred until her office gets a chance to speak with the budget committee.

“I just hope we have an opportunity to explain to them our role. Tourism is a pillar of economic development. It’s a different kind of economic development. We don’t develop…but we market the assets to the world.”

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