Looking for extra dollars.
Renfrew County manager of economic development Alastair Baird addresses county council about OVTA’s financial needs.
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
The County of Renfrew will continue to financially support its own tourism marketing organization, the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association, but in a bigger way.
From 2001 to 2010, the County funded OVTA to the tune of $170,000 a year, with no inflationary stipend along the way. Added to that amount was $20,000 from the City of Pembroke.
But it was realized by last year, when the OVTA requested special funding, to receive an extra $24,000 to meet its financial needs, that the status quo couldn’t continue.
A 2012 study completed by economic development and OVTA staff echoed those very sentiments.
Entitled Review of County of Renfrew Contributions to Tourism Destination Marketing and the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association, the study says many things, including the fact that OVTA marketing of the county is invaluable to making a good first impression and attracting new investors and new residents to the area.
The same study, which was presented to the development and property committee Oct. 9, also suggests the county is doing much less tourism marketing than other regions because of its limited budget.
For the comparative regions of London, Kingston, Northumberland, Lanark County and Renfrew County, the county’s OVTA had the lowest tourism budget, at $247,658. Next lowest was next-door-neighbour Lanark County at $292,308, but with about 60 per cent of Renfrew County’s population. London was highest at $1.9 million.
On a per-capita rate, Northumberland was highest at $4.87, with Lanark a close second at $4.45. The OVTA was lowest, at $2.36.
Following the study, members of Renfrew County council, the Pembroke mayor and CAO, and the OVTA board of directors were asked for feedback.
That feedback generated the recommendation that was supported by the county’s development and property committee, and in turn approved by county council Nov. 28.
The recommendation was for option one, which calls for the establishment of sustainable funding for tourism marketing and the OVTA.
This option requires an additional $38,124 above the 2012 contribution and an annual increase of about two per cent in overall funding each subsequent year. The amount of increase will mirror future increases in the Renfrew County budget.
“Tourism destination marketing has been an industry and a municipal and county and City of Pembroke activity since 1956 in many ways and in many different forms of support,” said Alastair Baird, Renfrew County manager of economic development.
Baird says the flatlining of funding for OVTA activities “has slowly strangled” OVTA activities to the extent so that its marketing efforts couldn’t continue at the same level.
OVTA’s annual budget covers salaries for its three staff members and marketing activities, which include consumer shows, travel-media familiarization tours and co-operative advertising.
OVTA also functions with the help of annual membership fees from 241 organizations. These include hotels, restaurants, rafting companies, ski resorts and other service organizations.
“The importance of tourism in Renfrew County, you can’s stress it enough,” said
Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Mayor Janice Visneskie.
Knowing tourism brings more than one million visitors and more than $110 million to the county each year, she added: “I support the initiative so they can get on with promoting Renfrew County.”
“This is something that for years needed to come forward,” said Admaston-Bromley Mayor Raye-Briscoe.