RTO4 continues DestinationBLYTH initiative - Nov. 9, 2017
BY DENNY SCOTT
The second of three meetings designed to guide future development in Blyth played host to a group of agreeable stakeholders laying out potential plans for the village’s future.
The event, which was held at the Blyth and District Community Centre on Nov. 2, built on a meeting held in October to help brainstorm how individual future plans could better align themselves and become more than the sum of their parts.
The meeting was run by Overlap Associates and more than 30 stakeholders from Blyth and the surrounding communities were in attendance.
The event started with a recap of the previous meeting, including codified documentation of the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities from the previous meeting.
Napier Simpson, Chief Administrative Officer of Regional Tourism Organization 4 (RTO4), the group that hosted the event, explained that the end goal of the meeting was to determine “what Blyth wants to be when it grows up”, in a development sense.
Simpson said there was no interest in “changing a grapefruit to an orange” but instead in “polishing the apple” that is Blyth.
“We want to envision what does Blyth aspire to?” he asked the assembled stakeholders. “What do we want for Blyth? We want to pull together the group to determine the future.”
Simpson said the point of the particular exercise of the day was to pull together a group of stakeholders and determine the future of the village.
After reviewing a report including the information from the previous meeting, attendees were asked how they reacted to the information therein, including which ideas they found most exciting, troubling and what could be built upon.
Local farmer Luke Schilder highlighted the importance of including the farming community in projects.
Schilder said that Blyth “wasn’t special”, comparing it to other destinations and said that, instead of looking at what to do next with the village, the group should focus on building on what he feels is one of its most important qualities: its “world-class farming community.”
Others focused on the stories that Blyth tells, both through the renowned Blyth Festival and through the village’s rich history.
The group was then tasked, as individuals, to build a list of six to 10 things each person felt Blyth should aspire to in order to become a tourism destination. Those individual suggestions were shared with smaller groups which then, through comparison, chose which ones to share with all the stakeholders at the event.
The three “clearest” ideas were shared by each group and then connected, but not through obvious means.
For example, ideas in similar forums such as online engagement and clear digital marketing wouldn’t be connected, however two ideas like “residential capacity” and “youth retention” would be.
The idea behind the exercise was to generate a list of Blyth’s unique selling points, organizers said, and the means by which they could be brought to target audiences.
The group then discussed what brings visitors to Blyth, with Simpson saying that, the rule of thumb for tourism is that every one hour of driving to a location requires three to four hours of activity.
Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt said that, in the past, that kind of time was often taken up by visitors to the Festival.
He said that, in years past, the cast and crew of shows could be found at the Blyth Inn after shows intermingling with theatre-goers for the chance of immediate, personal interaction with those involved turning a two-hour play into a multi-hour event.
Other possible avenues for growth that were highlighted included special events like the Festival of Wizardry, agricultural opportunities, green-spaces, Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company and outdoor activities.
The results of the event will be shared at the next and final meeting in the series which is set for Nov. 30 at Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company.
For more information, contact RTO4’s Andrea Gardi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-271-7000 extension 205.