Trent Hills Deputy Mayor Mike Metcalf holds up a card that asks visitors to the community to complete an online survey
Open House Held Requesting Residents and Business Owners’ Input
Goal is to Produce Three-year Plan by 2024
Survey Continues Until Fri., Sept. 29 (see below)
Article/images by John Campbell
Trent Hills – Wed., Sept. 20, 2023 – A pilot project is underway to draw more visitors to Trent Hills with a tourism destination development plan.
The project’s three partners – the municipality, Trent Hills Chamber of Commerce and Regional Tourism Organization 8 (RTO8) – chose Bannikin Travel and Tourism to produce a three-year plan by February 2024.
Residents and business owners in Trent Hills were invited to assist in its creation by giving their input at an open house that took place last week in council chambers.
The “visioning” session was held to learn what the community sees are its priorities, challenges and opportunities for tourism locally, said Caroline Morrow, a tourism development specialist with Bannikin and the project’s manager.
It’s not just about attracting more people to the area, it’s also to find out “how tourism can be a force for good … (and) help make Trent Hills a better place to live,” she said.
“It’s really important because tourism isn’t something that exists in a vacuum, it … has many far-reaching impacts.”For example, “things that visitors like to participate in” are also things residents enjoy taking part in, Morrow said.
“It’s an exciting process to be going through because residents know their community best,” its “hidden gems” and assets, “and what their friends and family are looking for when they visit, and that can be applied more broadly.”
“It’s a great exercise, it’s something that we need to look at regularly,” Deputy Mayor Mike Metcalf said. “As we grow especially, you need to stay on top of things, and see where our partners (in the community) are doing well, and where partners need some help.”
The owner of a restaurant and a pet food store in Hastings, Metcalf said he and many other businesses “wouldn’t be able to employ as many people” as they do without “those dollars from outside the community (being) left here.”
In terms of expanding tourism, “we need to look at those shoulder seasons” to determine what can be done to get more people to come here, he said.
More tourists, however, also means “more challenges” for the municipality’s infrastructure, such as increased traffic on the roads, “so how do we balance that as well?”
Chamber Executive Director Nancy Allanson said the provincial government is covering the cost of the pilot project, roughly $25,000.
“In the past we’ve done plans on our own, (but they were) more like a marketing plan, whereas this is more about destination development, looking for opportunities where we can improve access to tourism services … (and) enhance what we already have,” she said. “Or maybe there are some new opportunities we can create as well.”
“This will be a huge asset to have an actual plan that everybody can work on together,” Allanson said. “Tourism in Trent Hills is key to supporting our local economy … We’re doing great right now, but … we want to take it to the next level.”
The COVID-19 pandemic tested the municipality’s resilience in many ways, Metcalf said, but “I would say we’re on the mend.” There are still people who are “very cautious and that’s okay, but the majority have gone past that, and we’re ready to live our lives again.”
Allanson said Trent Hills is “coming out of COVID very healthy.” Festivals and special events experienced “tremendous attendance,” several businesses opened and others expanded.
“It’s been a phenomenal year. We want to continue with that.”
The chamber recently polled more than 90 businesses that profit from tourism. “We didn’t hear back from all of them but we’ve estimated that more than 500 jobs are attributed directly to the tourism industry, and of those more than 200 are full-time jobs.”
“Just from that stat alone it’s one of our biggest employers (in Trent Hills),” Allanson said. “A lot of our businesses wouldn’t be able to survive here in Trent Hills if we didn’t have our visitors coming to Campbellford, Warkworth or Hastings.”
The money they spend locally also means residents “get to enjoy extra amenities and services” they wouldn’t have otherwise, she added.
Editor’s Note: If you are a resident or industry member and were not able to attend the Open House, we invite you to complete an online survey using this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TrentHillsIndustryResidentSurvey
The survey is made up of 9 questions and will take around 10 minutes to complete. The survey will remain open until 4:00 pm on Friday, September 29. If you prefer a hardcopy survey, visit the Trent Hills Chamber of Commerce Office located at 51 Grand Road in Campbellford. Please return your completed hardcopy to the same location by 4:00 pm on Friday, September 29.