The future of the OVTA 0
The Renfrew County development and property committee got a thorough report of the costs and benefits of the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association (OVTA) at its October meeting, and all signs point to the association being a lucrative boon to business in the county.
According to the report, although almost every other industry has been in noticeable decline in recent years, tourism has provided steady economic growth for Renfrew County, totalling more than $25 million in private sector capital investment (the largest investments coming from the construction of the Quality Inn and Suites in Petawawa and the current construction of the new Holiday Inn Express Hotel Pembroke) and bringing 1,247,000 visitors to the area, who spent roughly $116 million in 2009.
The report, prepared and presented by county manager of economic development services Alastair Baird, was requested by the committee back in March “to provide an understanding of the tourism marketing activities” that the county pays for, particularly through financial support of the OVTA.
In its current incarnation, the OVTA dates back to 1988, but there has been an organization dedicated to the promotion of tourism in the Renfrew County area since the 1950s.
This year, the county supported the OVTA to the tune of $195,396, approximately $25,000 more than the annual contributions from each of the previous 10 years.
This direct financial contribution is in addition to an in-kind contribution (through county staff hours) worth $52,262.
The OVTA is also supported by the city of Pembroke, whose contribution is proportional to that of the county, with Pembroke contributing 11.01 per cent to the county’s 88.99 per cent.
However, the report indicated that to achieve sustainability, the OVTA would require $228,945 of annual funding, $33,549 more than they received this year, and $58,404 more than in the years 2009-2011.
A number of options were presented as part of the report, including some that would involve a reduction of staff at the OVTA, although the report stressed that the recommendation to eliminate staff positions “would allow for the maintenance of core marketing activities only” and that “the viability of tourism destination marketing and the OVTA may need to be considered in the future if this recommendation is adopted.”
Instead, the report pointed to huge returns on investment following destination marketing efforts, including being featured in travel and leisure magazines, newspapers and websites across North America and around the world, to justify covering the deficit by increasing the county contribution by the requisite $33,549, along with annual increases keeping in step with the overall county budget.
Another recommendation of the report was to clarify the budgetary impact of an administration executive assistant position, which currently is covered 100 per cent by the OVTA budget, but should instead be shared evenly between the OVTA and the economic development division.
Following the report’s presentation, committee members will examine various options of dealing with the budgetary deficit and will make comments and recommendations for a final draft of the proposal to go to county council in the future.
Ryan Paulsen is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist. Follow him on Twitter @PRyanPaulsen.