Gravenhurst council received an update on the Tourism Destination Plan from Amy Taylor, Manager of Economic Development, at the June 20 Committee of the Whole meeting. The plan approved in May 2021 details several short and medium-term items for staff to implement.
Taylor said that the tourism micro-site is “first and foremost, the one with the biggest bang that we have created out of the tourism plan so far. The tourism micro-site is a website created during 2020, featuring experiences, accommodation, tastes and planning tools, all based on non-membership, which means if you are a business in Gravenhurst and you are in the tourism industry, we support you.”
The site can be found at discovergravenhurst.com and discovergravenhurst.ca or on the Town’s gravenhust.ca website under ‘Visit.’ There is also an itinerary-building tool now, which allows visitors to put together and print out a trip based on their interests.
The Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) was the second large item recently implemented. Taylor said it was going well so far, “we are getting dollars in and seeing incremental growth. Council approved the MAT in August 2022 and it took effect on Jan. 31, 2023 at a rate of 4%. This tax applies to all hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, licensed short-term rentals, and roofed accommodations offering less than 30-day continuous stays.
A trial promotion was also launched during the pandemic when people were limited in activities. They worked with the Town’s Infrastructure staff to upgrade signage, Google Maps and digital mapping online for those heading out on the trails.
A social media and Google ad campaign was started as well, which saw “good uptake, especially during the pandemic, but we continue to see additional trails being used. Our approach was to not hammer away at the most popular trails but to try to move people around to experience different options in Gravenhurst,” explained Taylor. She said some of the lesser-known trails such as Cooper’s Falls, Old Stone Trail and Devil’s Gap have seen an increase in use.
Taylor told council that some new literature has been created. A Wharf brochure has been updated and distributed and a municipal services map was designed, listing parks, boat launches and attractions. It also includes a ward map and a rural map.
The “Taste of Gravenhurst” dining guide has been re-printed and the online version updated and includes fast food, fine dining, food trucks, coffee shops and specialty dining. There is no charge for businesses to be included and the guide is free. Taylor said the “appetite for these guides is there,” noting 6,000 were printed and in 3.5 months and half are already gone.
Taylor said that the pop-up shops at the Wharf have been a hit and that local merchants are “thrilled.” A solar-powered lighthouse and four Muskoka chairs have been added and a bike repair station, dog water dish and some landscaping are still to come.
Projects that the group will be working on further down the road include programming to promote cycling tourism, putting up wayfinding signage, developing exit surveys for visitors and receiving a “pet-friendly” designation.
Lastly, Taylor said the committee is looking ahead to the Ontario Heritage Conference that Gravenhurst is hosting next year. They will be holding the 2024 Ontario Heritage Conference Community Brainstorming Session on July 11 at 3:00 p.m., for past and present Heritage Committee members and anyone who is “heritage-inclined.”
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