Tourism is one facet of the strategic plan, Inspiring Innisfil 2020, being prepared for the Town of Innisfil that will be presented in a Final Report to Council on March 9. But interest and enthusiasm is building, and the wheels are already turning on a South Simcoe Tourism initiative, Celebrate Lake Simcoe.
This week, members of the South Simcoe Tourism Working Group filled Town Hall. The crowd included representatives of Chambers of Commerce, councillors, restaurateurs, event organizers, tourism operators, farm representatives, media broadcasters and others. They came to hear Dan Taylor, the Economic Development Officer (EDO) from Prince Edward County describe how a ten-year effort has built the tourism economy of that area. Prince Edward County is an island community of about 25,000 permanent residents that attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year and generates about $65 million in economic activity.
Mr. Taylor offered a lot of practical advice and insight into the strategy and process that led to their success. He talked about identifying a niche market and marketing a way of life. He noted that visitors from major urban centres like Toronto are eager for new and enjoyable experiences that reflect a different way of life. Prince Edward County built on its agricultural and culinary assets, eventually earning the accolade of ‘gastronomic capital of Ontario’ from the Globe and Mail.
His talk led me to reflect on the heritage of Innisfil, first as a pioneer agricultural area, later famous as the source of North America’s purest ice from Lake Simcoe prior to refrigeration, and next a seasonal camping and cottage playground. Innisfil has links to our railroad heritage too, now tenuously continued by the GO Transit commuter trains.
How these threads come together to reflect our way of life in Innisfil to tourists is open to interpretation and inspiration. By choosing to live here – and many of us made that choice – we placed some values at least as high as, or higher than, the pursuit of status and wealth that predominates in a metropolitan setting. What was it for you? In some cases, enjoyment of natural beauty, opportunities for outdoor recreation, creative inspiration and expression, healthier environment, quieter community and a slower pace, time with family and friends. That’s our way of life. Inviting neighbours to join us – that’s tourism.
Some things that we take for granted such as a day at the beach or on the water, a walk on a forest trail, a lakeside sunset, an evening campfire are the basic ingredients of a visitor experience. How they are combined and enhanced through food and festival or celebrated in art and music is up to our imagination and creativity. The movement to Celebrate Lake Simcoe is gaining momentum and Mr. Taylor encouraged everyone to collaborate with their community partners for the greatest impact. To that end, I encourage everyone to attend the Special Meeting of Council on March 9 to see the presentation of Innisfil’s strategic plan, including the economic development and tourism components.