OVTA reviews 2018 plans with County council
Sean Chase/Daily Observer The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association (OVTA) presented their annual update and budget to Renfrew County council this week. In the photo are (left to right) Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) executive director Nicole Whiting, OVTA administrative assistant Helen Giroux, OVTA communications co-ordinator Lauren McIllfaterick, OVTA president Chris Hinsperger, OVTA marketing co-ordinator Melissa Marquardt and Renfrew County manager of economic development services Alistair Baird.
Tourist operators will see the effects of the Wynne government's decision to hike the minimum wage and introduce the so-called transient accommodation tax, warns the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association (OVTA).
Presenting their annual update and budget to Renfrew County council this week, OVTA president Chris Hinsperger said tourism continues to play a critical role in sustaining economic development in Renfrew County and the City of Pembroke, however, there are major challenges on the horizon for the industry.
Businesses and operators find themselves dealing with more unpredictable weather patterns, ensuring they have qualified employees and Ontario's Jan. 1 minimum-wage increase. The new provincial minimum wage jumped to $14 from $11.60 at the beginning of the month. The minimum wage is slated to rise to $15 in January, 2019, which will make it one of the highest minimum wage rates in the country.
“Prices are going to go up,” said Hinsperger. “That's the bottom line for a lot of our folks.”
He remains positive about the transient accommodation tax pledging that the OVTA will have their say when it comes to the implementation here. The Short-term accommodation for the tax means renting on a consistent basis under 30 days. This could include motels, hotels, lodges, inns, and bed and breakfasts.
“This could, in fact, have the potential for additional funds for tourism promotion and product development,” Hinsperger added. “We will weigh in. It is our responsibility to our communities. We have decisions to make and input into how we can compete and possibly collaborate with larger regions.”
The OVTA is partnered with the Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO), one of 13 Regional Tourism Organizations created by the Ontario government to increase tourism to the province. The OHTO’s mandate is to build and support a competitive tourism region through marketing and product development. Based on data from the OHTA, tourism continues to be a vital economic generator for the region. In 2017, the county welcomed 1.5 million visitors who spent $165 million during their stay. The OHTA, which includes neighbouring Lanark, Frontenac, Hastings, Haliburton, and Lennox and Addington counties, brought in $585 million during that same period.
The association, which is currently made up of 229 members, will host expanded workshops tailored to customer service and networking. It will continue to promote cycling and adventure touring motorcycle routes, as well as the Ottawa Valley Maple Adventures endeavour. Hinsperger is keen to further exploit the tourism opportunities that will come with the development of the Algonquin Trail and the designation of the Ottawa River as a national heritage river.
“We are all storytellers,” he said. “Now more than ever we have opportunities to tell them and get those stories out there. In the last year, we've been given new opportunities to tell potential visitors why they should come here.”
The county has also seen an increase in visitors as a result of being part of a cycling triangle that goes from Algonquin Park to Hastings County to Lanark County and Ottawa. The 12 visitor information centres under the OVTA served 19,765 people last year. They estimated 98 per cent of visitors were domestic, with two per cent coming from international destinations. The OVTA is planning for $142,139 in expenses while projecting $370,755 over the next year.