Tourism Metrics

In March of this year, tourism contract employee Bryan Mercer presented a plan to increase tourism in Cobourg and presented a new printed guide that focused on experiences.  In June, he launched a new web site – (link below) and summer students were hired as “Experience Ambassadors” – one of their jobs was to conduct surveys by asking visitors some leading questions.  Other methods of collecting data were also employed and now the results have been tabulated and we have some good data on visitors and tourists.  Bryan presented this data to Cobourg Council at their meeting on October 1st and the results show that although the beach is Cobourg’s prime attraction, visitors do spend money and do come to local restaurants.

Bryan Mercer
Bryan Mercer

As well as the 506 interactive surveys collected between June 1 and Labour Day, downtown pedestrian counters and cell-phone trackers were also used.  Some information was also inferred from web site data (see full report).

Data from Interactive Surveys

  • 18-34: 345; 35-49: 272; Under 18: 310 (primarily kids with adults); 50+: 272 visitors.
  • 86.4% arrived in personal vehicle, 7.7% by boat, 2.4% by train.
  • 64.5% of visitors stayed the day
  • 13.3% one night
  • 19.4% for multiple nights
  • 48.7% participated in a cultural activity (event, museum, tour, etc)
  • 49% shopped
    13.6% spent between $1-$60, 13.6% spent between $61-$100 and 12.2% spent $101+ (excludes amounts spent on accommodation)
  • 59.7% ate locally (Notable mentions: Beach Canteen, Buttermilk, Marca, Sakura Sushi, Rustic Bean, Millstone, Arthur’s Pub, Corfu, Oasis, Swiss Chalet and other branded fast food outlets)
  • Preferred food at the beach canteen: 71% French fries, 51% hamburgers, 48% sammies/wraps, 45% poutine, 37% hotdogs, 24% ice cream.
  • 8.6% healthy choices 5.7% salads.
  • 98.1% would recommend visiting Cobourg.

Why they visited:

  • 50.7% beach
  • 28.2% events
  • 26.8% friends/family
  • 26.2% unplanned visits! (marketing, signage, web, recommendation, gas stop, etc.)

Download the full report below for more – including comments made by visitors.

Cellphone Tracking

Four Visitor Recognition Units (VRUs) were used to measure the number of visitors (assuming they had a cellphone), where they went and if they visited the same location more than once.  The VRUs were located at the canteen, at the bottom of Division Street (Marina/campground), Downtown (corner of Division and King) and at Victoria Hall.

Key VRU results

  • Busiest day was the Sandcastle weekend, especially Saturday with a count of 10,771.  A close second was the Sunday of the Waterfront festival weekend (July 1).
  • For August 3 to 6, the Beach had 52% of Traffic
  • Busiest hour is 2-3 pm on Fri/Sat/Sun

Pedestrian Counters

Two locations were used – King & George and King & Division.
The King & George location had a lot more traffic – apparently because the counter at Division was often bypassed by typical traffic.
They measured how many pedestrians passed from May 1 to September 5

King/George data

  • Monthly average: 352,220
  • Busiest day of the week: Friday
  • Busiest days of the period analysed:
      1. Saturday 30 June 2018 (15,792)
      2. Monday 02 July 2018 (15,314)
      3. Sunday 01 July 2018 (15,170)


Although Bryan did not spell out a summary, some things stand out:

  • Interactive surveys – that is, asking people questions works best to collect data.
  • Tourists do come downtown and do spend money although it’s not clear what percentage of the total at the beach go anywhere else.
  • The Sandcastle weekend and the Waterfront Festival significantly boost visitors.
  • Collecting data, even if limited, does help understand the impact of events on Tourism traffic.
  • People who visit say that they like Cobourg – some come back to live here but there’s no data on that.


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4 October 2018 1:18 pm

you can’t shop on King st in the evenings if all the shops are closed or there is no new product to look at
What s Wrong with these Shop owners here .

4 October 2018 10:37 am

We all know that there must be a balance in marketing and spending between tourism and revitalizing our downtown core and local businesses. But for all the nay sayers, many recently arrived residents, including myself, wouldn’t have known and subsequently moved to this town it hadn’t been for an earlier exposure to the beach.

Knowing the town feeling you want to create and developing innovative activities such as the music/ food beach events this summer is on the right track. So is evening cafe/ shopping and music on King Street as an earlier reader suggested. These ideas feed both the economy and tourism. Why not have a Town Hall evening with local businesses and brainstorm more fresh ideas?

Walter L. Luedtke
4 October 2018 9:44 am

“Join the discussion”? Sorry, this is a reply to Ms Frenchy.

3 October 2018 6:42 pm


Would it not have been more informative and beneficial for the surveyors to go and ask the large group of tourists at the beach if/where they spend money downtown? By including the beach crowd in the survey, the town may gain a better understanding of the true benefit of tourism (after subtracting the money spent on attracting them). Unfortunately, I tend to see more people with coolers full of food/refreshments coming to the beach for a cheap getaway.

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Susie-Q
4 October 2018 11:46 am

A couple of years ago I was asked by a couple at King & Division where to buy provisions nearby for an impromptu picnic lunch. I had to admit there was no such place. Our downtown is a classic food desert. What kind of tourist town doesn’t have basic food and drink available for visitors? The smart ones are those who arrive with “coolers full of food/refreshments”?

John Draper
Reply to  Rusty Brown
4 October 2018 11:53 am

You might have sent them to Shopper’s which has basics like bread and milk etc but we can look forward to Market and Smor opening on King East before too long. They promise green groceries and health food which should suit Tourists wanting a picnic.

Mrs Jenkins
3 October 2018 11:23 am

l am wondering if the town could make a creative move (to enhance the downtown) by closing 3 blocks on King street for a month next summer- in the evenings – making it a pedestrian walkabout – with sidewalk cafes etc’ this is very popular in other areas and most European cities . (walk and talk and shop)- its surely worth a try – l note the sidewalk events that now occur during the day are very popular.

3 October 2018 11:12 am

I understand that tourism is important for existing businesses in the downtown area, however, it does nothing to boost NEW businesses in town. I agree that money should be spent on bringing new business to the main street empty stores.

As far as tourism to the beach is concerned? It has taken its toll on the residents of this town. It’s no longer a beach that residents of the town can call “their own.”

manfred s
Reply to  Elizabeth
5 October 2018 12:25 pm

you see, there’s another conundrum, using tourism to boost the ‘potential customer’ count downtown to hopefully draw more businesses into it, all the while realizing that the juiced-up numbers in foot traffic of summer dissipates after Labour Day or maybe Thanksgiving. That is not lost on savvy entrepreneurs so they discount that data right from the get-go. Of course it helps those whose job it is to revitalize the downtown to give the impression of progress, because numbers are just numbers. If our snowbirds stayed home over the winter, that alone would have a beneficial impact as well. REAL, sustained foot traffic is the stuff that downtown-type businesses dream of and live on, not the most fickle of all, tourist boom and bust cycles. Spending money to “bring” new businesses to the downtown is a waste of resources and effort, period. You want more businesses? give them what they want more than anything, dependable and sustained consumer traffic. Anything else is merely a fleeting stopgap that’s gone before you can say ‘hello’.

Walter L. Luedtke
3 October 2018 10:25 am

Uh Oh!
Here we have a person temporarily on Town Staff collecting ‘hard data’ on tourism.
Conclusion: ‘the results show that although the beach is Cobourg’s prime attraction, visitors do spend money and do come to local restaurants’.
Can’t be right.
And there’s more. Just about all Council candidates are in favour of boosting tourism.
Will be the end of Cobourg as we know it.

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
4 October 2018 11:34 am

You may be worried unnecessarily. When the lake ferries were still operating, the town was invaded by Americans every time one docked and they streamed through the town just the way tourists from monstrous cruise ships in their ports of call do these days. We survived and prospered, as I recall.

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Rusty Brown
4 October 2018 12:05 pm

Hope the ferries will run again – with cars.

manfred s
Reply to  Rusty Brown
5 October 2018 11:08 am

uh…Rusty, you do realize that Walter’s comment was his blend of humour and sarcasm, right? … because yours seems to indicate that you took it seriously 😉

Reply to  manfred s
5 October 2018 11:16 pm

uh… manfred s, you do realize that Walter’s blend of humour and sarcasm are lame, right?
Maybe it’s a German thing that only you guys get.

3 October 2018 9:58 am

I would love to see the full total amount spent by Cobourg this year to attract tourists to our town as it appears to me the main beneficiaries are the hotels and restaurants in our town and not too many of the other businesses. Could our money be more wisely spent in attracting new manufacturing jobs to Cobourg for stronger long term benefits.

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  cornbread
3 October 2018 3:04 pm

This is an opinion blog.
If you really want numbers on tourism spending, ask Mr. Hustwick 905-372-4301.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
3 October 2018 5:43 pm

This is a news blog. Look at the title above.

manfred s
Reply to  Frenchy
3 October 2018 9:28 pm

since the addition of Graham’s “column” it has been both.

John Draper
Reply to  manfred s
3 October 2018 10:07 pm

My intent is that the news blogs (posts) do not have any opinion but the comments certainly do. Grahame’s posts are an opinion column similar to what newspapers have and indeed Grahame had a newspaper column for many years. Re Walter’s comment; Bryan Mercer was hired by Dean so Dean’s information would come from Bryan. I doubt phoning Dean would uncover any more than you can get by reading Bryan’s full report in the link at the bottom of the post. Often Blogs are opinion articles but in this case, “blog” refers to the format, that is I allow/ encourage comments.

Reply to  John Draper
4 October 2018 8:33 am

May I ask what is done with the info. gathered or observed from the comments and discussions on this site / Blog ?
Is it put to good use . Is anyone paying attention
It seems to me that it is centered a lot about Tourism & its impact on Business / Growth on King st in an effort to keep King st alive . Which by the way doesn’t seem to be working . yet the Towns officials and Depts & now Dean — still target the short season Beach as the saviour to King st .
I noticed 2 or 3 more store closures in the last WK .
Now I am seeing a lot of comments about the locals loosing the use of their beach to Hoards of tourists and in general the lack of peaceful enjoyment
of the beach and park areas by the Locals and near by residents .

Reply to  perplexed
4 October 2018 10:57 am

” Is anyone paying attention”

You bet. Every current member of council and every candidate for the new council check in here regularly. They need to know which way the wind is blowing.

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Frenchy
4 October 2018 12:07 pm

Because it is an ‘opinion’ blog?

manfred s
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
5 October 2018 11:17 am

you’re probably right on that, if you’re referring to the “comments” portion, Walter. However, I do think that although he does incorporate his opinions in them, John’s articles, or posts if you will, are by far, more news than opinion.

manfred s
Reply to  Frenchy
5 October 2018 11:11 am

trouble is, much of what goes for ‘wind’ here is more like a ‘fart in a windstorm’ lol

Rusty Brown
3 October 2018 8:44 am

Not surprising that King & George would experience heavy traffic: 3 banks and the only liquor/wine store for miles around. Or kilometers.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Rusty Brown
3 October 2018 9:03 am

It used to be that Victoria Hall was surrounded by three banks, the LCBO, Kelly’s Inn, Plaza Hotel, and British Hotel. Essentially Victoria Hall was surrounded by money and booze.

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Wally Keeler
4 October 2018 11:23 am

I remember the Plaza Hotel and the cozy long narrow barroom with dark carpet, barn boards, antique farm tools, and dim lighting that someone created just when I reached drinking age. It was a wonderful place to relax and schmooze, especially after ski lessons at Camborne. Bless the memory of whoever it was that did it. It’s now a sub shop.
That and buying bus tickets at the British Hotel across the street.

manfred s
Reply to  Rusty Brown
5 October 2018 12:01 pm

and why is it so hard to find a bus stop here now? That would bring more feet downtown as well. There are numerous yet obscure ways of increasing that much sought-after foot traffic.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  manfred s
5 October 2018 2:07 pm

There are numerous yet obscure ways of increasing that much sought-after foot traffic.”

Numerous? Please provide examples.

manfred s
Reply to  Wally Keeler
5 October 2018 5:49 pm

even though I’ve been doing just that, here on this blog for more than a few years, in response to your request, I’ll repeat some of them when I have some time to collect them.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  manfred s
5 October 2018 6:05 pm

I just thought off the top of your head. The only ideas I ever had to increase foot traffic were ephemeral, much like Critical Mass in Poet Hope. I have no retail experience, and you have had a full-bodied experience, so I hoped for a paragraph or two at most off the top, given that you have been immersed in the retail experience. Take your time cuz retire and rewire.

2 October 2018 8:51 pm

It would be interesting to know the local & visitor draw for Ribfest.

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Pierre2
3 October 2018 8:47 am

It would also be interesting to know what percentage of these “visitors” are actually locals going about their business. Myself included.

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Pierre2
3 October 2018 3:05 pm

This is an opinion blog.
Ask the Rotary Club to do a survey next year.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
3 October 2018 5:43 pm

This is a news blog. Look at the title above.

manfred s
Reply to  Frenchy
5 October 2018 11:56 am

actually, it’s both. The articles are news, the comments are opinion.