Barrie’s tourism master plan recommends growing sports tourism, focus beyond waterfront

Report recommends city identify tourism as a priority economic sector

Barrie’s tourism master plan, which was received and approved in principle by city council on Monday, pays special attention to giving visitors a complete experience beyond just the waterfront.

“I think we often think of the watefront as our sole source of tourism here in the city,” explained Stephanie Schlichter, Director of economic and creative development, during her presentation to council. “But tourism encompasses so much more and touches on so many parts of our local economy, from arts and culture, open park space, shopping experiences, and all of the supporting resources around it.”

The tourism master plan was drafted following meetings with over 80 stakeholders from industry to the city’s regional players, and considered existing plans and how they could play a role in various tourism strategies. Tourism Barrie was part of the plan’s steering committee, which included representation from various organizations including the Downtown BIA and the Barrie Hotel Association.

There are 30 recommendations included in the tourism master plan with 10 key priorities including the city adopt tourism as a priority economic sector for Barrie, and tourism be incorporated when considering new development, wayfinding, parking and downtown revitalization.

Schlichter said the city has a strong support tourism base to build on.

“It’s recommended the city and Tourism Barrie continue to develop a sport tourism strategy that looks beyond hockey tournaments and starts to look at all-season sporting activities which also ties into the recommendation that we look at year-round assets leveraging our outdoor spaces.”

Schlichter said Barrie needs to profile itself as a four season experience rather than just the waterfront, with a focus on nature/hiking trails, parks, cycling and snow-related events.

The plan also recommends investing and supporting visitor-focused arts, cultural and live events, such as festivals, theatre and music.

The consultants also identified a market demand and opportunity for business meeting and conference space driven by Barrie’s proximity to the Greater Toronto Area.

“A key criteria to the success of any conference centre is going to be a hotel on property or in close proximity. The consultants felt that the downtown provided the greatest opportunity to link spending with the tourism community.”

The report presented on Monday comes amid the pandemic, which has devastated the tourism sector worldwide. The bulk of the master plan was created prior to COVID-19, and as Schlichter explained, is really designed to be implemented in a post-pandemic climate.

A report will come to council in spring 2021 with key recommendations on implementation and execution of the tourism master plan.