Tourism Barrie lays out 18-month recovery plan

Plan will be local at first, a regional approach by fall and provincial marketing come winter

The tourism and hospitality sector has been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with staggering numbers of job losses worldwide.

Tourism Barrie said Tuesday it has been able to withstand the financial crisis in the tourism industry.

“Tourism Barrie has gained its footing through this pandemic, and we will continue to provide leadership in rebuilding Barrie and Area’s visitor economies by following three simple strategies, Response, Recovery, and Resilience,” said Betsy Dean, President of Tourism Barrie.

Tourism Barrie’s Recovery Plan will begin with hyperlocal marketing to support local businesses and staycations through the summer and into the fall, limiting marketing outside of Barrie. When fall rolls around, Tourism Barrie will take a regional focus and begin to encourage people living in surrounding townships, cities and towns to come back and visit Barrie for a getaway. If local authorities approve, the reach will extend to the rest of Ontario to come to Barrie on weekend winter getaways. Tourism Barrie has also partnered with the Culinary Tourism Alliance by contributing to the Great Taste of Ontario Road Trip Campaign that will promote culinary experiences found in Barrie for Ontario residents to come and savour.  

“We will respond by aligning with public-private sector strategies and elevating community collaboration in accelerating Barrie’s recovery. Tourism Barrie is leading tourism recovery by working with the City of Barrie and the tourism industry to amplify the messaging of when it is safe to reopen the visitor economy with clean and safe visitor experiences while following health and safety protocols. Resilience will be to ensure the sustainability and growth of the tourism industry for the long-term by completing our 3-Year Strategic Plan that aligns with the City of Barrie’s aspirations for tourism,” said Kathleen Trainor, Executive Director of Tourism Barrie.

Tourism is a huge engine that helps drive Barrie’e economy. Tourism Barrie released figures that show the City’s visitor economy is worth over $140 million to Barrie annually. Barrie sees over 465,000 overnight guests staying at local hotels every year, which pours new money into Barrie businesses and supports thousands of local jobs. While Barrie is a four-season destination, with strong summer and winter appeal, the City can boast a robust year-round corporate market, and there is an emerging sport tourism market that brings thousands of families into the area for tournaments throughout the year.

“The goal is to create workable solutions with government and put the hotel industry and tourism operators back on stable ground and contributing once again to the Barrie community. Tourism Barrie has created its own 18-month Recovery Plan that dovetails with the City of Barrie’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Action Plan that has a gradual approach to opening up the area to tourists. Time is of the essence for many businesses and we need to act now so there will not be permanent job losses and grim consequences for business in the region that rely on tourists,” said Ken Montgomerie, President of the Barrie Hotel Association and Tourism Barrie board member.

While navigating the pandemic these past few months, Tourism Barrie has implemented its own cost-saving measures and has been able to take advantage of the assistance from the Government of Canada COVID-19 programs, and by receiving a grant from the FedDev Ontario Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRFF).