RTO4 prepares Blyth for tourism boom - April 27, 2017
BY DENNY SCOTT
Napier Simpson of Regional Tourism Organization 4 (RTO4) wants North Huron Council to be ready for the tourism opportunities presenting themselves in Blyth.
In a presentation to council members during North Huron’s April 18 meeting, Simpson said there is “a lot happening in Blyth” they needed to be ready to capitalize on.
“There is this emerging opportunity that is once in a lifetime and, if we squander that and don’t capitalize on it, there will be thousands and thousands of people coming to Blyth, doing their thing and leaving,” he said. “We have an opportunity right now to create a different conversation around Blyth, one that looks to capitalize and harness all that new energy and activity in a way that will build Blyth into a long-term destination.”
Simpson explained that, in 2010, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport decentralized tourism initiatives into 13 different regions. RTO4 includes Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington areas.
“The idea was to focus on things regionally instead of always talking about Toronto, Niagara Falls and Ottawa, the three big tourist destinations.”
Simpson said the goal of the regional tourism organizations is to grow tourism, however they are not funding bodies, but rather they develop initiatives through processes to measure how tourism initiatives are working.
He explained that a process had been developed through RTO4 with consultants that is designed to make sure programs find success.
Simpson said the opening of the Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company, the opening of the Grant and Mildred Sparling Centre housing the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity, the renovation of Memorial Hall and the Goderich-to-Guelph Rail Trail (G2G) represent a significant convergence of tourism opportunities and the community heads need to capitalize on them.
Simpson said North Huron and Central Huron need to be partners with the groups responsible for the above opportunities and need to “open up [a] dialogue.”
“Unless you grab the opportunity with the tens of thousands coming, you will miss out,” he said.
Simpson also said that Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company represents a new demographic that will add to the tens of thousands the Blyth Festival brings into the village every year.
“There is an opportunity to do what’s always been done and hope for an opportunity for everyone to roll up their sleeves and start looking at ways to keep the visitors there at the end of their plans,” Simpson said.
He pointed to the south end of Blyth as a problem, even with the opening of Cowbell, as the topography doesn’t welcome visitors to the village. He suggested creating a “gateway” to draw people north, into the village, saying the sight lines that exist now aren’t conducive to welcoming visitors.
He said plans to “dress up the town” should be considered immediately such as gateway or streetscape work.
“This is a brave new world and new frontier,” he said. “Any one of these [potential partner organizations] could be a significant party, but there are four.
“How can we get involved in a way that will help capitalize and develop Blyth as a destination?” he asked council.
Simpson said all he was asking was just for council to consider the program, saying financial assistance wasn’t immediately needed due to funding from Huron County and the province.
“This is... something you can bite into because it represents an opportunity to create economic prosperity,” he said. “These things are going to happen, but they will happen in isolation if not worked on together.”
Council received Simpson’s report.