RTO4 begins DestinationBLYTH initiative - Oct. 19, 2017
BY DENNY SCOTT
Regional Tourism Organization 4 (RTO4) has now hosted the first of three meetings dedicated to
DestinationBLYTH, a special think-tank aimed at leveraging recent growth in Blyth to position the village to capitalize on tourism and development opportunities.
David Peacock, Chief Executive Officer for RTO4, explained that, right now, the organziation believes Blyth is deserving of attention. While RTO4’s catchment area covers Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington Counties and hundreds of tourist attractions, it falls to its staff to determine which are provincially significant.
Blyth has made that list, according to Peacock, joining such destinations as local theatre clusters, heritage towns such as Bayfield and Stratford and locations that can support music and sporting events such as Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.
“Blyth is surrounded by places that are similar in size, but it is different,” he said at the Oct. 13 meeting held at Memorial Hall. “That why we’re here, is to find out why Blyth is different and provincially significant.”
Peacock said there were obvious long-standing answers, such as the Blyth Festival and Memorial Hall, and newer developments such as the Goderich to Guelph Rail Trail, Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company and Blyth Arts and Cultural Initiative 14/19.
Five years ago Blyth wasn’t where it is now according to Peacock. While there were early plans for the programs, the brewery and the trail, the village hadn’t “reached critical mass” for the convergence of development opportunities. He explained that the village is reaching that critical mass now.
“Because the best destinations are community driven, we’re here to make sure there is buy-in on the community level,” he said.
Part of the project’s drive is to make sure that Blyth lives up to the opportunities in the village, pointing to Stratford as an example.
“Stratford wasn’t living up to [the Stratford] Festival,” he said.
He told the 30 stakeholders present that, as involved as the community is, the village needs to make sure it measures up to the potential growing within its borders.
Andrea Gardi, Senior Project manager at RTO4, spoke next, explaining why she had pushed for Blyth to be the focus of the next project. She said that, when looking across the entire RTO4 region, Blyth was unique.
“Blyth has the biggest opportunity to be truly spectacular,” she said. “I want to be a part of that.”
She explained the meeting was focused on determining Blyth’s ‘DNA’, or identifying its unique selling points and assets.
“We want to know what makes Blyth special and what cuts through the clutter to get people to choose to come here,” she said.
The first part of the process had attendees walk around Blyth Memorial Community Hall’s lower hall, in which pictures of the village had been posted. They were asked to put their impressions or memories of locations on sticky notes beside the photos as a means of exploring the community.
Next, in groups of six, tourism personas were explored. Each group selected a specific type of tourist and talked about the feelings, experiences, goals and challenges faced. Tourist archetypes examined included snowmobilers, country music fans, sports tourists and families.
Using the lens of those tourism personas, groups then began to outline the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities the village faced.
The group then wrote individual postcards to themselves in the future with what they hoped Blyth would look like in five years.
The goal of the meeting was to articulate the strengths, assets and weaknesses of the village and, at a meeting scheduled for Nov. 2, a vision plan using that information will be formulated.
For more information or to participate in the next meeting, contact Gardi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-271-7000 extension 205.