Not everyone agrees that Tourism is good for the Town and for its businesses and last Fall the Town decided to try and resolve this question. With some Federal funding, consultant Laridae Communications Inc was hired to do this and their results will be presented in a report to Council at their Committee of the Whole meeting on March 8. Kara Euale, Manager of the Marketing and Events Department in the Community Services division views the effort as a way to “evaluate our current marketing tactics”. Staff are working on the premise that Tourists should be attracted although they see the report as a way to “measure the level of impact tourism has on our local economy”. The staff memo and consultant’s report are available in the links below. Since most residents and businesses are interested, let’s look at what they say.
Kara (file photo at right) says that the purpose of the study is to “inform and serve as a backdrop for the Department as we re-imagine tourism opportunities post COVID-19 and moving forward.”
She also notes:
As COVID-19 placed a halt on travel plans in 2020, the Marketing and Events department sought an opportunity to engage the local businesses as we felt they may more easily be able to assess the impacts of tourism on their business by comparing a busy 2019 to a tourism vacant 2020.
To get their results, they asked citizens and businesses using “a series of stakeholder engagement activities including focus groups, key informant interviews and an online survey.” A total of 135 people responded to the online survey and another 12 took part in focus groups and key informant interviews. The split of business owners versus community members participating in the survey is not given in the report but comparing average (overall) survey results with business results one can see that the average numbers are heavily weighted towards community members results. This suggests that the number of businesses in the 135 number is small – I estimate around 40. [If I am provided with an actual number, it will go here].
This graphic shows responses from all 135 respondents.
Dividing above graphic between business owners and community members we see that business owners were more supportive of tourism than “community members”.
89% of business owners stated that they agree or strongly agree that tourism is an important economic driver for the Town of Cobourg whereas 72% of community members stated that they agree or strongly agree.
In response to the statement, “small-medium size businesses rely on seasonal tourism and attracting visitors to the region”
- 61% of business owners, 80% of business and or tourism organizations and 35% of interested community members stated that they strongly agree.
And In response to the statement “The Town of Cobourg would benefit from actively promoting the region as a tourism destination”
- 64% of business owners, 80% of business and/or tourism support organizations and 42% of interested community members stated that they strongly agree.
Businesses were asked the question “in 2019, prior to COVID-19, tourism activity in the Town of Cobourg contributed approximately blank towards my company’s annual revenue”.
- Of the respondents who identified themselves as retail businesses, 23% stated between the range of 20% – 35% and 23% stated between the range of 50% and 65%
- 29% of Food and beverage businesses stated a range between 20% and 35%
- 50% of accommodations businesses stated a range between 65% and 80%
In response to the question: “Prior to COVID-19, how did the Cobourg Beach (and waterfront activity such as the Splash pad, Canteen etc.) contribute towards attracting customers and generating sales for local businesses in general?”
- 54% of retail businesses and 50% of food and beverage businesses stated significant contributions. 50% of accommodations stated some contributions.
See more results in Research Findings in links below.
Focus groups were held for small-business owners or operators from the retail, food and beverage, and accommodations sectors, as well as community partners.
These were generally supportive of Tourism and felt that Tourism created jobs, that tourism should be promoted even more, that people staying at the campground “represent significant spending power and often have relatives visiting on the weekend” and street closures bring extra business.
On the negative side, “there was a common belief, that investing money into one-day events does not positively impact local restaurants”.
Kara’s memo does a good job of summarizing the long consultant report and has more details than I have provided here – especially on what more could be done to attract tourists.
The full report has even more detail – download from the link below. Looking at the questions asked only of small-medium sized Cobourg businesses, the amount of net benefit of Tourism is not as great. Some in fact see a reduction in business. The full report also includes a large number of respondent comments.
The survey was mostly promoted by the DBIA so presumably most of the business respondents were downtown and it’s clear that the majority of those responding see Tourism as a good thing. There seemed to be no attempt to ask citizens if they want tourists and the overall sample was quite small so the question as to whether Tourism is a net benefit to the Town remains unanswered although based on the limited number of answers and comments they were less supportive than businesses.
The focus of the survey seemed to be whether more attraction of Tourists would be good for Downtown businesses and the answer seems to be yes.
The only specific action mentioned was that there should be more resources (that is, people) devoted to Tourism although this is based on a comment from Eileen Lum, the County’s manager of Tourism.
In the meantime, the Cobourg budget for 2021 has less money for Tourism promotion than 2020: there will be no 2021 Tourism guide, no Waterfront Festival and only a virtual Sandcastle festival.
- Research Findings – Economic Benefits of Tourism – memo from Kara Euale. Manager, Marketing and Events Community Services.
- Engagement Report – full report by Consultant Laridae Communications Inc