SD&G likely to go it alone on tourism

Warden says county wants to internalize tourism

SD&G – While no decisions have been made, in all likelihood the county will sever ties with Cornwall and the Counties Tourism (CCT) at the end of the year.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Warden Jamie MacDonald said the upper-tier municipality is just not getting the bang for its buck from the tourism agency.

“Definitely the flavour is county council wants to internalize tourism and bring it in-house. We haven’t made an official decision because all we did was get a key information report (at Monday’s county council meeting) that would have us have the discussion,” MacDonald said.

This move follows a presentation last month by CCT Executive Director Linda Wilson where the council wanted more information on a number of issues, including representation on the CCT board.

“We just felt that we weren’t getting what we had hoped for. We talked about having more representation on the committee and she (Linda Wilson) felt that we were represented enough – that they were going to have a separate committee where we would be represented more but it was not on the main committee. We were disappointed with that, definitely,” Warden MacDonald said.

The City of Cornwall pays $160,000 a year to CCT while the county pays roughly $80,000 yearly.

“That’s $240,000 of public money and they take in $23,000 in memberships,” he said. MacDonald suggested the CCT was gearing themselves more towards members while the county would be using the tourism tax dollars to support all businesses and residents.

“We need to see every taxpayer, business or event having some say or getting some exposure. Definitely the northern corridor of SD&G doesn’t get a lot of attention (from CCT).”

Cornwall councillor Mark MacDonald – the city’s appointee on the tourism board – put the cart before to proverbial horse Tuesday night, tweeting during the tourism agency’s AGM that the funding cut was a done deal.

Warden MacDonald believes the work can be done in-house with their existing staff in the economic development department.

MacDonald said a plan will be coming from county staff next month on what it will look like for SD&G’s economic development department to take on tourism portfolio, including the cost.

“We have committed to the end of 2016 (with CCT) and next month we’ll decide either way so that we given them plenty of timing either way…I would think that it’s looking more like we’re planning on internalizing,” he said.

The warden said the county plan would tie in with local groups, such as the chambers of commerce, that are “already doing a little bit of tourism” – an action they haven’t seen from CCT.

“We’re not closing the door on anything but, at this point, we’ll be awaiting the staff report at our next meeting that will show us the blueprint of what it’s going to look like.”

That meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 16, 2016 at 9 a.m.

The City of Cornwall is also expected to talk about future options for tourism, including the possibility of bringing tourism under Cornwall economic development.

Cornwall and the Counties Tourism Executive Director Linda Wilson told the Seaway News the agency is at a standstill and doesn’t know, at this point, what will happen at the end of 2016.