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Coast-to-coast tourism growth strategy announced in the County

Lesley Lavender, PEC Chamber of Commerce, Caroline Granger, Melanie Joly, Minister of Tourism and Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis at the tourism announcement Tuesday.

Story and photo by Sharon Harrison
A coast-to-coast strategy to boost shoulder-season tourism, create jobs and fuel economic growth was unveiled in Prince Edward County, Tuesday.

Melanie Joly, Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie, made the announcement with Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis at an event hosted by the County’s Chamber of Commerce and the Grange winery.

Joly launched the Federal Tourism Growth Strategy before a packed house including local and area municipal officials.

“We need to increase by 25 per cent the revenues of the tourism sector, so in order to reach $128 billion by 2025, we need to grow the sector by creating 54,000 jobs across the country by 2025,” she said.

Joly is touring cross-country to hear from some of the 1.8 million tourism workers the Liberals see as part of their target audience: the middle class “and those working hard to join it.”

She said one million more tourists need to be added across the nation during the winter and shoulder seasons, especially outside the three big cities Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

“We’ve had record years in Canada for tourism; that was the case last year and that was the case during Canada 150, but we can do better and that’s exactly what we will be doing.”

Ellis noted that with the Victoria Day long weekend, tourism season has officially kicked off in the County – “a world-class destination in our local riding.”

“Tourism is the backbone of the economy in Prince Edward County, and each one of you here plays a key role in the sector, and success, to our region.”

Joly credited Ellis’ knowledge and strong voice defending the tourism sector in the launch of the new strategy which highlights three goals.

The first is ‘the Canadian Experiences Fund’ of $58 million over two years led and organized by regional federal development agencies across the country; participation of the private sector and investment from federal agencies not previously involved heavily in the sector.

Money will be invested in five fields, the first being products or experiences linked to people experiencing winter or shoulder season activities. The second is Indigenous tourism; the third is rural and remote region tourism, followed by LGBTQ2 tourism and farm-to-table tourism.

The focus includes many of the things Prince Edward County does well, including markets, local products and food festivals; and supporting wineries and distilleries to develop their facilities.

“It will be the first time that the federal government plays a leadership role by investing and making sure that we actually show that we trust the people in the sector, and we know that will fuel the growth of our economy and our middle class.

The federal government already pays for foreign advertising campaigns, includng $95 million a year through Destinations Canada, and in its most recent budget, spent $5 million to promote domestic tourism.

The plan continues work on the demand to attract tourists, and now also the supply, for sustainable tourism growth.

Joly said Canada used to be a top 10 destination, specifically during the Vancouver Olympics but following cuts, is now ranked 18th – surpassed by countries such as Japan, Australia and Iceland where there is much invested in tourism.

The government also intends to play a leadership role for the tourism sector based on owners of SMEs [small to medium enterprises] who are driving growth.

“Since 99 per cent of the tourism sector is composed of SMEs, we need to help the people in the sector to get organized, along with the federal agencies, “based on the fact that people in regions decide their own priorities and should be supported,” said Joly.

The strategy includes $58 million for tourism projects over two years as well as the creation of regional “tourism investment groups” and a Canadian advisory group to improve co-ordination between governments and the private sector.

“Prince Edward County has been developing fantastic tourism experiences over the past 20 years,” said Joly. “We know that we can drive supply better, in order to create more growth for people in these destinations and meanwhile have tourists that are coming and that are investing, and that creates not only growth, but sustainable growth.”

The plan is to not only increase the numbers of tourists, but also increase their spending.

“We don’t want to go into over-tourism. We want to do it for the better of our communities and for also for the better of the tourism sector in general,” she said.

Key players at that table will also look at bigger problems, such as labour shortages.

“I know you have been dealing with these – the impact of the sharing economy, the cost of travel and also the need for infrastructure. That will help also to drive the discussion and find some key solutions,” said Joly.

Lesley Lavender, executive director of the County’s Chamber of Commerce said she was excited to hear Joly’s news and looks forward to having a seat at the table.

“The Chamber represents the voice of business in Prince Edward County. We provide leadership in promoting economic development, prosperity and growth of business in the County through advocacy, support and assistance through the local market and surrounding area.”

“Our membership drives and directs our focus. The chambers of commerce and boards of trade are the voice of business not only at a municipal level, but at all levels of government, including provincial and federal,” she said.

Lavender acknowledged several breweries, wineries and distilleries present at the event, and also welcomed chef Albert Ponzo who created light fare offerings for the occasion.

Caroine Granger said she got a feeling of hope with the minister’s announcement.

“The idea that we are now being encouraged to do it, but we are going to be supported in our ideas and in our growth is lovely,” she said.

“Over the last 20 years, we’ve talked a lot about what we can do, and certainly here in Ontario, we were challenged in terms of create jobs, create growth. Prince Edward County is actually a shining example of what we can do when we put our minds to it, when we become a community, when we strive together to make a future,” said Granger. “I look forward to actually seeing the effects that flow into our region.”

“I think this will change the lives of people that are actually making sure that our tourism sector is blooming, and you are part of the 1.8 million people working in the sector, and our government is the ally of the tourism sector,” concluded Joly.

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  1. Gary Mooney says:

    Correction: According to Peter Lockyer, “Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the canning factories closed their doors one by one.” Sprague did continue, but moved to Belleville in 1996.

    http://historyliveshere.ca/journal/the-canning-industry/

  2. Susan says:

    I am not convinced that advertising the County as an alcohol destination is particularly healthy or something to be proud of. Drink hardy and enjoy the finest foods, while we have so many that cannot afford basic daily meals. No clearer example of the haves and have nots!

  3. Paul Cole says:

    This idea that wineries established the tourism industry in The County is non sense long before the wineries tourism was doing very well here. Canning held out until Cobi’s finally closed in 1994 other canneries were still in operation until the 80s like Waupoos canning factory. Tourism has ALWAYS been successful here in The County. I think the wineries should be thankful to the already established tourism industry that was here long before wineries came along. Had The County supported and promoted other industries in The County like it has the wine industry The County may be an even better place, it seemed The County was about to do that when they helped Black River Cheese rebuild after the fire but then the focus switched to JUST wineries and here we are…

  4. L.L. says:

    Not ALL of the canning factories died in the early 60’s. I worked for years at Baxters, then Hardee Farms, and finally Cobi Foods in Bloomfield from the age of 16 every summer during high school until I graduated in 1979 and then worked there as a fulltime employee until I moved to Picton in the mid 80’s. Cobi Foods closed their doors in Bloomfield in early 1994. Sprague Foods stayed a little longer but then moved closer to the 401 in Belleville area. You won’t find any business to start up here that would employ that many people again.

  5. Mark says:

    The County is a wonderful place to live for the well to do and upper middle class. For the remainder and especially young families it is a daily struggle. This is not supportive of a healthy community.

  6. JS says:

    (some) are woefully unaware of the true income divide in the county and supports provided. The number of children that access breakfast programs has increased substantially in the last 5 years, at least 30%, and the number of graduating high school students that cannot afford to seek post secondary education and in that area I do not even want to discuss the 2 school closures and significant cuts in arts, science and special programs at our schools. Let’s hope all those tourism employees do not have kids.

  7. Gary Mooney says:

    Janice: The County has enjoyed several boom times due to exports of hops and barley, cheese, canned fruits and vegetables, dairy products, in that order. Each of these industries died out, resulting in tough times until the next major opportunity.

    Canning died out in the early 60s, but dairy propped up the County’s economy for a while until most farmers sold off their quotas and herds. During the 1990s, the County’s economy was in the doldrums.

    During all of this time, fortunes were made by proprietors of businesses, but many County residents were barely getting by, operating small subsistence farms or working for low wages. It’s true that there were no food banks — low income folks were on their own.

    It wasn’t until the advent of the winemaking industry starting about 2000 that the economy started to pick up again. The growth of wineries supported the growth of tourism, including restaurants, accommodations, recreation, the arts.

    As before, we have a range of income levels, from wealthy to poor. It is true that housing has become more expensive as a percentage of income, and there is a shortage, but this is the case everywhere. There is an excess of available jobs here, but a shortage of people willing or able (trained) to do them. There are now support systems in place for the most disadvantaged, where there were none in the olden days.

    As compared with many other rural areas, our economy is much healthier and continues to grow.

  8. Fred says:

    When the baby boomers begin to pass away and their great wealth through fat pensions that will not be seen again, and inheriting extreme wealth from family that saved, this boom will crash. A ton of County homes worth 500k plus will be left.

  9. Janice says:

    In response to Mr. Mooney, what proof do you have that our local economy is doing better than it did 50 years ago? Fifty years ago, our tax rate was not 8.6% and local people could easily find affordable housing, jobs and pay their utilities without fearing they would have to head off to a food bank to get through the rest of the week or month. In fact, 50 years ago, food banks were unheard of in the County! Certainly the rich are reaping a wonderful life in the County on the backs of the working poor but many locals would certainly challenge you how much better the economy is today compared to 50 years ago!

  10. Mark says:

    So where do tourism job employees live? How do you survive on minimum wage with respectable housing 400k plus to buy or $2000 a month to rent. And don’t forget the largest water rates in Canada! Something has to give or it all collapses. Locals have to move out is what is happening as they cannot compete with the rich. Let’s be honest in the assessment here.

  11. Gary Mooney says:

    The County’s economy has evolved based on natural local features — land for growing crops including grapes and water for recreation — and our success in attracting entrepreneurs. So we have agriculture and tourism, plus a few industrial operations. We have to work with what we have.

    Hundreds of County businesses depend on tourism that provide jobs and pay taxes. Our local economy is the best that it’s been in at least 50 years. The past is gone, and is never coming back. We need to work towards improving the future.

    The County needs to find the appropriate balance between the needs of residents and the interests of tourists. Tourism is growing at a rapid rate and needs to be managed with proper attention to the needs of residents.

    Nothing is achieved by complaining and negativity. Much better to channel that energy into working towards positive change.

  12. JS says:

    We did not all move here to have more tourists. There needs to be some foresight for what pec could really accommodate. Tourism does not support good paying permanent jobs. Agreeing with Janice

  13. Janice says:

    Who exactly is this going to benefit? Let’s promote more tourism in the County so fewer local people can be running from pillar to post looking for a place to live! It’s time these wineries and breweries stepped up to the plate and paid a living wage to the locals! If they can’t afford to pay, then get out of the business! All this federal money is aimed at the rich and does nothing to help the poor and middle class who are suffering from this absurd amount of unwanted tourism in the County. It’s the local people who are struggling to pay their ridiculous municipal taxes, water bills, hydro and fuel bills! If you think $14-15 an hour is going to cut it, you are in Lala land! The nerve of some wineries to ask for free labour—preferably called volunteers is insulting!
    Neil Ellis—money is needed for infrastructure and housing in the County. We don’t need more tourists!

  14. k.b. says:

    At the end of the day, exactly who benefits? What’s the bottom line and where is it drawn? I don’t see it as simple as it’s laid out here and I think it’s at the cost of the resident tax payors. We can increase tourism and encourage them to spend their money here but how will that help when it’s being spent on private businesses, while using infrastructure and eroding our services? After the tourists come and go, I still have a tax bill to pay, roads to fight about, and dated sewers that need to be upgraded. Enough about tourism please.

  15. John says:

    More jobs would be great, but much of the workforce is moving out of the County because there’s nowhere to live. Have to fix the housing problem too. Sorry Dave but STA’S are part of the problem. Everybody has to grow together.

  16. Dave says:

    Increasing Tourism is a noble idea but.. WHERE will they stay since STA is being clamped down?

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

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