COLUMN: Tourism shift needed in region

Tourism is a key economic development generator for Cornwall and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry (SDG). The city and county fund Cornwall and the Counties Tourism (CCT) to handle tourism promotion. The funding breaks down to a two-thirds (city), one-third (county) model. County officials and councillors are now reviewing if funding and their participation in the agency should continue.

There are a number of issues that boil down to, as outlined by SDG Warden Jamie MacDonald in an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, the county is not receiving the best bang for the buck. Any agency or service funded by the taxpayers should be reviewed frequently, and held to account. The powers that be with the county do not believe the agency is doing enough to promote the county region outside of Cornwall. Those same powers do not feel that the agency is interested or willing to make changes. Therefore, it is time to cut bait and move on.

The opportunity is there for the county, and the six lower-tier municipalities therein, to work together and really promote the region. Tourism is a function of economic development. Integrating tourism with the Economic Development department for the county only makes sense. The old adage is that Cornwall has the rooms, the counties have the attractions. This is true. From Upper Canada Village to the Glengarry Highland Games, to theĀ  South Mountain Fair. There are events, activities, and areas to promote. With areas of the county cooperating together, they should be able to get more bang for our tax dollar, and more benefit for us all.

Cornwall will still benefit from the counties doing their own tourism marketing and promotion. The city has the most number of hotel rooms, the largest selection of restaurants, and their own attractions and events. There is no reason the city and the county cannot work together, just not under the banner of the CCT agency.

The woes at Cornwall and the Counties Tourism are their own making. By accepting individual business memberships along with tax dollars, the perception is that promotion is uneven. When tax dollars are the primary source of revenue, promotion of businesses must be even as all businesses pay. Not allowing more input by a key stakeholder is a sign of poor customer service.

Outside of Cornwall, the agency is rarely seen. Municipalities in the counties have outsourced, rightly or wrongly, tourism booths and the like to local chambers of commerce. Why doesn’t the CCT run those booths? ONRoute service centers along Highway 401 have tourism information from the province, not from the CCT. The agency is based in Cornwall and clearly promotes Cornwall-first. So let it be Cornwall-only.

What the counties have asked for is fairness and value for money. They have not received it and there is an unwillingness by CCT to change. It is time to move on and find a regional solution that makes sense.