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Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism encouraging residents to ‘explore in own backyard’

Boaters travel up the Peterborough Lift Lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway in 2018.
Boaters travel up the Peterborough Lift Lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway in 2018. Global Peterborough file

With the Canada-U.S. border still closed for non-essential travel due to restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic, Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism is shining a spotlight on domestic tourism and specifically asking area residents to ‘explore in your own backyard.’

“We want to encourage our local residents to get a change of scenery, stay close to home and experience what Peterborough and the Kawarthas has to offer,” said Tracie Bertrand, Director of Tourism for the region.

READ MORE: Kingston ready to welcome hyper-local tourists this summer

“It’s what 3 million visitors want to do each and every year in Peterborough and the Kawarthas.  We have a chance to do it as local residents and we should.”

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Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism is focusing its marketing on hyper-local tourism this summer.

Showcasing cycling and paddling routes, restaurants, shops and scenery in this region.

“Let’s get our residents out enjoying our destination, shopping local, eating local, staying local and camping local,” added Bertrand.

The group has even shifted its website to cater to local tourists, offering to create specific itineraries for residents who have an idea of what they want to do this summer.

Bertrand said they will do their marketing in phases, first focusing on local tourism, before moving to regional and then to attracting visitors from other parts of the province.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Tourism in Peterborough and the Kawarthas likely to take major hit this summer

According to the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), tourism boosts the provincial economy by $36 billion annually.

“We expect it to be down and the projection looks like, because of the pandemic, it’s going to go to a $17-billion industry for this year,” said Beth Potter, president and CEO of TIAO.

“Ontarians like to travel.  They do like to explore their province.  We’re asking them to get out there and do that.  Support the local businesses while you’re doing so.”

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Potter said 2020 is going to be a local market and that domestic tourism is key to the survival of many seasonal businesses in the province.

“It’s going to be a very local market this summer.  As Ontarians emerge from their homes and starting to feel more comfortable being out and about, we’re encouraging them to explore their local communities and then eventually the community next door,” she said.

“Think about your Ontario bucket list.  What are some things you would like to do in the province that you never got to do?  Or maybe you want to revisit those icons from your younger days.”

READ MORE: How the coronavirus pandemic has put Canadian tourism in ‘survival mode’

Jill Quast owns Happy Days Houseboats on Pigeon Lake near Bobcaygeon, Ont.

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She said they are now fully booked for July and August and that about 95 per cent of bookings are from local or Ontario residents.

“The other five per cent is guests that booked far in advance.  They are hoping the restrictions will lift and they can travel.  We have a few reservations from international and U.S. guests,” she said.

Happy Days Houseboats has implemented several measures to ensure the safety of visitors and staff including signage for physical distancing and proper handwashing, increased personal protective equipment, the addition of decks and service windows to avoid having customers come into the office and the removal of touchpoints on its fleet of 17 houseboats.

“Where we’ve had about a thousand touchpoints on a boat, we’ve cut that by half.  We’ve also cut touchpoints by about 50 per cent and touch interactions, whether its a contract or handing something to them, we’ve cut that in half as well,” she said. “We’re doing what we can to minimize the spread.”

READ MORE: Kawartha Lakes economic recovery task force ramps up as downtown Lindsay construction winds down

Quast is also a member of the economic recovery task force for the City of Kawartha Lakes.

“It’s absolutely critical that we have the domestic tourism and sustain that tourism.  We often overlook our own backyard. We are fortunate to have such a beautiful backyard. A houseboat is a portal to so many experiences along the way and it’s important to support our local businesses.”

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“It’s time to stop and literally smell the flowers.”

The task force will begin to actively engage working groups next week that will focus on specific economic sectors including tourism.

“We’re making plans for 2021, as our minister of tourism said, to make it a marquee year and it will hopefully be all about big festivals and events in the coming year to celebrate what we just came through,” added Potter.