Developing, attracting sustainable tourism

DANIEL R. PEARCE Simcoe Reformer
Andrea Kilian has been hired with a grant to help develop sustainable tourism in Norfolk County. Gilian will help develop a strategy for a sustainable tourism industry.

Norfolk County has joined three other Ontario communities that also have a world biosphere designation to figure out how to develop their tourism industries without ruining the environment.

The idea is to bring in more people to hike and bike trails, canoe down creeks, and fly across tree-tops on ziplines without damaging the attraction itself.

“We’re not saying we don’t want tourism,” said Clark Hoskin, Norfolk’s manager of economic development and tourism. “We want it to walk lightly through our area and not leave scars.”

One way to do this, officials say, is to get tourism operators to engage in official certification programs that teach them, for example, how to prevent boats in their marina from leaking oil.

Each of the communities — the others are Georgian Bay, Frontenac, and Niagara — have split a $225,000 grant and hired part-time co-ordinators to come up with strategies and training sessions all four biospheres can share.

Andrea Kilian, who has been hired as Norfolk’s co-ordinator, said she expects to develop a training program that will draw on the attraction the county is becoming known for: agriculture and fresh food.

The work the grant covers, which will take place over the next two years, includes the formation of a local steering committee with members from across Norfolk County.

“I think we’re on the right track,” said Kilian. “We will figure out what people are doing and how to promote it.”

Norfolk has seen the birth of new tourism industries in recent years that take advantage of the area’s biosphere, a protected area under a United Nations declaration that includes forests, marshes, and waterways.

More businesses are expected to open up soon, say officials. A company that will offer guided bicycle tours, for example, is in the development stages now.

The word being used when talking about tourism is “sustainable.” That means not only taking care of the environment but also developing things to do that are viable in the long run from a business point of view, Hoskin said.

One of the hurdles in Norfolk is the lack of overnight accommodation. The area, said Hoskin, is unable to attract a large five-star hotel but could encourage smaller inns.

New accommodation is more likely to locate here if the area promoted more spring and fall attractions for tourists, he noted.

“The traffic has to be there before they will build it,” Hoskin said. “If it’s a three-season industry, investors will look at that.”

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Author / Autor: Daniel R. Pearce

 Date / Fecha: 01/04/13

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