Regional Municipality of Halton. Premier Ranked Tourist Destination. Final Report. August 7, PDF

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Regional Municipality of Halton Premier Ranked Tourist Destination Final Report August 7, 2007 Prepared by MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS TABLE OF CONTENTS TABLE OF CONTENTS... 2 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS... 3 BACKGROUND...
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Regional Municipality of Halton Premier Ranked Tourist Destination Final Report August 7, 2007 Prepared by MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS TABLE OF CONTENTS TABLE OF CONTENTS... 2 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS... 3 BACKGROUND... 4 INTRODUCTION... 5 Why Halton?... 7 Starting from a Position of Strength... 8 Project Process... 8 EVALUATION PROCESS PRODUCT PERFORMANCE FUTURITY SUMMARY OF FINDINGS RECOMMENDATIONS Immediate-Term Recommendation Halton Tourism Alliance...31 Mid-Term Recommendations 2008 to Longer-Term Recommendations CONCLUSION Acknowledgements Prepared For: Regional Municipality of Halton Business Development Centre 1151 Bronte Rd. Oakville, ON L6M 3L1 The Regional Municipality of Halton acknowledges and thanks the many tourism business operators and industry colleagues who contributed to the success of the Premier Ranked Tourist Destination Research Project. Premier Ranked Steering Committee Members: Pam Belgrade, Executive Director, Tourism Burlington Sue Walker, Executive Director, Halton Hills Chamber of Commerce Sandy Martin, Executive Director, Milton Chamber of Commerce Tim Simmonds, Marketing and Partnership Development Officer, Oakville Economic Development Janice Edworthy, Director of Sales & Marketing, Holiday Inn Burlington Hotel & Conference Centre Bruce Murray, Vice President Standardbred Racing, Woodbine Entertainment Caroline Polgrabia, Tourism Industry Advisor, Ministry of Tourism Ontario Ministry of Tourism: Paul Samson Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Industry Advisor Caroline Polgrabia Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Industry Advisor Premier Ranked Tourist Destination Audit Team: Nicole Shantz Craig Oldershaw Fernando Calero Jamie Hamilton Amanda Adamson Halton Region: John Davidson, Director, Business Development Sandra Nuhn, Manager, Entrepreneurship and Strategic Partnerships Project Facilitator: Richard Innes Brain Trust Marketing & Communications This project was facilitated in partnership with Service Canada (now Employment Ontario) and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism. 3 Background The Premier Ranked Tourist Destinations (PRTD) program was an initiative developed by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism under its Ontario Tourism Strategy in The goal of the PRTD program is to help destinations across Ontario identify areas for development related to tourism, assess their competitive tourism advantage and ultimately improve to become a destination of choice. Being a Premier Ranked Tourist Destination indicates that here is a place more attractive than the rest, a place the potential tourist visitor should consider first in making travel plans. To be clear, Premier Ranked is not a formal tourism designation but rather is an internal tourism goal for a destination to work towards as it relates to becoming better than the rest. To assist municipalities with assessing and developing their tourism product, the Ministry of Tourism established a tool called the Premier Ranked Tourist Destinations Framework. This framework assists jurisdictions in assessing their tourist assets, attractions and amenities and allows them to identify opportunities in tourism development. The Ministry of Tourism provides financial assistance to regions to undertake the PRTD process. Halton Region s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy approved by Council on October 4, 2006, addressed the Region s support for and involvement in the tourism sector through Action 46, Complete the Premier Ranked Tourist Destinations Project and database in conjunction with Halton s tourism stakeholders and report to Council on the findings of the project in Several regions in Ontario have completed PRTD projects including the Regional Municipalities of Niagara, York, Durham and Prince Edward County. The cities of Mississauga and Hamilton have also completed their PRTD assessments; all these destinations have used the results of their studies in the development of comprehensive tourism plans. Muskoka District, the 1000 Islands and The City of Toronto are currently underway with their own PRTD assessments. The Halton PRTD project is an inter-jurisdictional initiative involving Halton Region s Business Development Division, the Ministry of Tourism, Service Canada (now Employment Ontario), local level partners (Tourism Burlington, Halton Hills Chamber of Commerce, Milton Chamber of Commerce and Oakville Economic Development) and tourism industry stakeholders. The funding for the PRTD project came from four sources Halton Region s Business Development Division, Employment Ontario and the Ministry of Tourism, with the local tourism partners providing important in-kind contributions. It should be understood that the PRTD project is a shared initiative of both the tourism industry and Halton Region. The successful implementation of the recommendations is based on a thorough understanding, appreciation, engagement and endorsement from both the private and public sector partners. It is a shared process undertaken by industry and government, and both must accept the accountability for delivery if it is to be viewed as productive over the long term. At the outset the PRTD Steering Committee understood and accepted this mandate. 4 A Halton PRTD Steering Committee, made up of representatives from Halton Region, local tourism partners and industry stakeholders, was established to direct and guide the development of the overall project. Through funding from Employment Ontario, contract staff was hired to assist in the development and completion of the PRTD resource audit of the Halton tourism industry. The resource audit was carried out in the form of a detailed survey of Halton tourism establishments which asked respondents to describe their operations, services offered, customer base and tourism awareness, among others. The survey was mailed to Halton tourism establishments from the accommodations, food and beverage, attractions and retail sectors. Survey results were compiled in a comprehensive database maintained by Halton Region staff and shared with local tourism partners. To assist the PRTD Steering Committee with the analysis of the audit results and the preparation of the final report, a tourism industry consulting firm was retained in January 2007 through a Request for Proposals process. The consultant worked with the PRTD Steering Committee to review the results, assess current regional industry strengths, weaknesses, attributes, product/service gaps, factors and conditions that impact existing and future development plans and identify potential opportunities and partnerships within the tourism industry. Initial findings from the audit, together with identification of Halton s key tourism attractors were presented to the local tourism industry at stakeholder sessions held in 2007 in north and south Halton. A specific session was held with the Oakville Tourism Partnership on March 6, Initial findings were also presented at Tourism Burlington s Annual General Meeting on May 24, Based on the feedback and comments received from the tourism industry, recommendations for inclusion in the final report were written and presented at a final industry stakeholder session held on May 29, It can be safely said that as a result of this consultative process the tourism industry in Halton has endorsed the recommendations contained in this report. It is the culmination of many hours of diligent work, dialogue and discussion. This report contains key recommendations that, if implemented, will have a positive impact on all of those who live, work and visit Halton. Introduction What is the Premier Ranked Tourist Destinations Framework Process? The Premier Ranked Tourist Destinations (PRTD) Framework was developed by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism to provide a framework for tourism destinations across Ontario 5 to define their competitive position within the tourism marketplace on domestic and international levels. Premier ranked is defined as: A place more attractive than the rest, a place the tourist should consider first when making travel plans. The Ministry of Tourism developed a resource audit and workbook format that outlines the attributes/factors/conditions that are considered prerequisites for a tourist destination to be considered serious in building the economic well-being of its destination in order to grow tourism revenues for the destination and its tourism shareholders. The workbook format provides a simple methodology that communities can follow to ensure consistency, accuracy, and maximum involvement of the key tourism and economic development stakeholders in the process. The workbook emphasis is on enabling any tourist destination of any scale to operate at the highest possible level it can achieve not necessarily in competition with other operators, but in a complementary context within that particular destination. It should be noted that being or moving to being Premier Ranked is not an official designation or grading. It is simply a process designed to help destinations improve in their viability and competitiveness as a place visitors want to visit. Three specific dimensions of tourism assessment are included in the study: 1) The Product Dimension A Tourist Destination provides a high-quality tourist experience, enabled through the destination s offerings of: Distinctive Core Attractors Quality and Critical Mass Satisfaction and Value Accessibility An Accommodations Base 2) The Performance Dimension The quality of the tourist experience and the destination s success in providing it as validated by: Visitation Occupancy and Yield Critical Acclaim 3) The Futurity Dimension The ability for a destination to thrive from tourism into the future is sustained by: Destination Marketing Product Renewal Managing within Carrying Capacities 6 The PRTD process overall involves several critical steps along with a serious commitment and investment of time by industry partners. This investment of time and energy is rewarded with specific insights and direction. At its conclusion, the Premier Ranked Tourist Destination research project provides: A database of critical baseline tourism business data An understanding of Halton s destination status in the global tourism marketplace and the opportunities and challenges constraining that status A solid base for preparing a long-term regional tourism strategy Product development and partnership opportunities Recommendations that support the growth and sustainability of the tourism sector A foundation to attract tourism investment and create employment opportunities. The additional benefit of this methodology is the expanded and more capable network of industry stakeholders involved. By working through this process stakeholders will have a more cohesive focus on solving current and future challenges. Why Halton? Halton is a vibrant, attractive and diversified destination. It has a population of 439,000 people and offers both residents and visitors countless opportunities for entertainment, recreation, education, relaxation and fun. Halton covers over 967 square kilometres, including 25 kilometres of frontage on Lake Ontario. Halton is comprised of four Local Municipalities: the City of Burlington, the Town of Halton Hills, the Town of Milton and the Town of Oakville. The City of Burlington and the Town of Oakville make up the urban area to the south, and the Town of Halton Hills and the Town of Milton make up the less urbanized area to the north. It is apparent that the tourism industry and tourism stakeholders have a desire to constantly improve and enhance the well-being and quality of life of its resident population and at the same time support the strong business community that is found here. The PRTD process, a shared initiative of the tourism industry and government, is a significant step in ensuring this happens. The PRTD project and the ensuing findings and recommendations will: Rally the tourism industry in Halton Help determine Halton s current state and on-going potential as a visitor destination Capitalize on investments made by the tourism industry in new product development Determine areas for future tourism product development Establish a clear way to proceed to grow tourism visitation to the region Increase overall revenues of tourism operators within the region 7 Starting from a Position of Strength The Premier Ranked Tourist Destination report is designed to identify the areas where improvements are required. That being said, this work has been done against the backdrop of a region that is starting from a position of strength, these include: Halton s proximity to a major population base. More than 6.0 million people live within a three-hour drive with easy access to the region, representing a significant market. Halton has the infrastructure to cater to visitors as a result of its own growing population base, including a number of attractions, an extensive park system and conservation lands, services such as retail, food and beverage establishments, good public transportation and good signage and roads, among other things. Halton has an attractive collection of four-season tourism products, these include o Royal Botanical Gardens o Glen Eden Ski and Snowboard Centre/ Kelso Conservation Area o Canadian Golf Hall Of Fame o Mohawk Raceway and Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) Slots o Vibrant streetscapes, dining and shopping, festivals and events in a number of attractive towns and villages o A wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities based on its proximity to Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment and supported by Conservation Halton Halton has a number of Destination Marketing Organizations committed to grow tourism within their own communities and within the region in general These factors compare well to other destinations within Ontario and to a certain extent set Halton apart. The combination of geographic location, more than acceptable levels of developed tourism infrastructure and the long list of interesting and attractive tourism products supports this premise. Project Process In February, 2006, a PRTD steering committee was established made up of representatives from Halton Region, local level partners (Tourism Burlington, Halton Hills Chamber of Commerce, Milton Chamber of Commerce, Oakville Economic Development) and private sector stakeholders to direct and guide the development of the overall project. In the summer of 2006, funding for the PRTD project was provided by the Ministry of Tourism, Service Canada (now Employment Ontario), Halton Region and in-kind commitments and contributions from the local level. In July 2006, a kick-off launch was held at the Crosswinds Golf and Country Club in Burlington to raise awareness of the project and build momentum within Halton s tourism industry. 8 In the fall of 2006 five (5) contract employees were hired to work on the project, to be based at Halton Region s Business Development Centre. Their principal role was to assist in the development and implementation of a PRTD survey to Halton tourism establishments. In October, 2006, 784 PRTD surveys were mailed to tourism businesses in the region. The survey was also posted on the Business Development section of the Halton Region website, In November 2006, a Terms of Reference for consulting services was issued by Halton Region, and Brain Trust Marketing and Communications of Mississauga was retained to facilitate industry consultations, provide overall direction in the final phase of the process and prepare the final report, including analysis of findings and the development of recommendations for action. The company had previous experience assisting Niagara Region, Prince Edward County and York Region with their PRTD projects. Industry Stakeholder sessions were held on March 20, 2007, in north Halton and April 3, 2007, in south Halton. Initial results from the audit, together with identification of the region s key tourism attractors, were presented to the local tourism industry. Feedback was received. On April 17, 2007, draft recommendations were written and presented to the PRTD Steering Committee, these recommendations took into consideration the feedback received from tourism businesses at the March 20 and April 3 meetings. These recommendations were approved. An Industry Stakeholder session was held on May 29, 2007, at the Halton Region Museum and the draft recommendations were presented. Good discussion took place and the group endorsed the recommendations. A presentation on the PRTD project, its findings and recommendations was scheduled for Halton Region s Administration & Finance Committee on September 12, 2007, together with a staff report. Completion of the Premier Ranked Tourist Destination project is based on the Audit Team facilitating the following four-step process: Step One: Database Design and Collection A database of potential tourism businesses was created and 784 surveys were delivered to companies representing the accommodation, food and beverage, attraction, heritage and cultural, campgrounds and parks, marinas, golf, transportation, retail, events, festivals and outdoor adventure sectors. The names of the various tourism establishments were supplied through the four local tourism partners and related organizations. (Halton Agricultural Advisory Committee members provided additional names for agri-tourism establishments.) 9 Overall response rate was approximately 35% - which is similar to the results in other regions in southern Ontario The survey data was accumulated, entered, clarified, analyzed and evaluated using the PRTD workbook and the Tourism Resource Opportunity Matrix. Return Rates by Sector Sector Data Total Return Rate Accommodation Mailed Surveys 69 Returned Surveys 32 Attractions Mailed Surveys 252 Returned Surveys 122 Food & Beverage Mailed Surveys 228 Returned Surveys 49 Retail Mailed Surveys 235 Returned Surveys 75 Total Mailed 784 Total Returned % 48.41% 21.49% 31.91% 35.46% Return Rates by Local Municipality Municipality Data Total Return Rate Burlington Mailed Surveys 288 Returned Surveys 109 Halton Hills Mailed Surveys 102 Returned Surveys 40 Milton Mailed Surveys 131 Returned Surveys 51 Oakville Mailed Surveys 263 Returned Surveys 78 Total Mailed 784 Total Returned % 39.22% 38.93% 29.66% 35.46% Step Two: Evaluation of the Product, Performance and Futurity Dimensions 118 measures included in the PRTD workbook were completed using survey data. Third-party research was also utilized to supplement survey data. The Transportation Resources Checklist was completed. Information necessary to complete the checklist was drawn from knowledge or perceptions held in common by area stakeholders in tourism, committee and industry sessions, and through direct contact with attractions, taxi and transit service providers. The Travel Trade Resource Checklist was completed from consultation with area attractions and tour operators. Trade association directories were used to identify 10 the relevant operators required to complete the checklist. Additional information was collected by contacting operators to discuss matters raised by the checklist. Step Three: Completing the Destination Performance Summary The consultant along with the Audit Team presented initial summary of findings to the Premier Ranked Steering Committee for reactions and comments. Additional work was undertaken to fill in information gaps and supplement initial findings, some gaps were not filled due to lack of information, for example customer experience/satisfaction data. Preliminary recommendations were prepared. Step Four: Present Summary Findings, Recommendations, Final Report Tourism businesses were invited to several presentations to validate findings and recommendations. Their comments and feedback were reflected in the ongoing development of the final report. Several presentations were made to the Premier Ranked Steering Committee for additional discussion and comments and to formali
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