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City of Kawartha Lakes focusing on recovery of tourism sector

Boats get launched at Kawartha Lakes Marina in Bobcaygeon, Ont., on Saturday, May 16, 2020.
Boats get launched at Kawartha Lakes Marina in Bobcaygeon, Ont., on Saturday, May 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Thornhill

With an annual revenue of about $106 million, tourism is the largest economic driver in the City of Kawartha Lakes.

According to the municipal tourism department, more than 1.6 million domestic visitors come to the area each year.

But the sector will likely miss that mark in 2020 due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Some industries within tourism here are seeing visitors back such as cottage resorts and boat rentals.  Businesses, patios and retail stores are open,” said Laurie McCarthy, tourism development officer for the municipality.

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

Of those domestic visitors, 60 per cent stay overnight while the other 40 per cent are day visitors.

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Forty-nine per cent of visitation occurs in the summer months of July to September.

“We are anticipating fewer visitors this year.  Locals are out and exploring and our marketing efforts are geared towards rediscovering Kawartha Lakes.  We want locals, cottagers and the neighbouring communities to come out and visit the businesses that are open,” she said.

“The loss of May and June, for the tourism sector, was definitely felt.”

Forty-nine per cent of visitors to the City of Kawartha Lakes are here to see friends and family while 48 per cent come for pleasure and 3 per cent for business.

The tourism department is using these stats to focus its marketing strategy this summer.

“That visiting friends and relatives market is really big for us,” McCarthy added.  “Making sure those who live here, know what there is to do here, is really important for us, but now we’re targeting our marketing campaigns in that direction.”

The tourism projects right now are being informed by the local economic recovery task force.

That includes the strategic marketing to local residents as well as a shop local campaign and destination development plan.

McCarthy is also working on a signature experience program that will launch next spring.

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She said work began on the program before the pandemic.

“It will create a new revenue stream for our tourism operators and local businesses which will aid in recovery.  Maybe it’s an accommodation or restaurant or agri-tourism, a local farm with local food, an experience will be created to learn what the business is doing.  Maybe it’s a farm partnered with a restaurant and accommodation and packaged in a way.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Several businesses in the City of Kawartha Lakes adapt to survive

A tourism working group continues to forge ahead into the recovery process for the sector as part of the task force.

During the virtual task force meeting Tuesday, Kathleen Seymour-Fagan, a city councillor and member of the task force, emphasized the need to get all marketing strategies out in a timely fashion.

“It’s already the second week of July and we’re fine in Bobcaygeon, but the other areas are still suffering.  I think it’s a priority,” she said.

Manager of economic development Rebecca Mustard assured her department and communications are working together to ensure the messages go out in a timely fashion but also at appropriate times depending on provincial announcements.

Mayor Andy Letham agreed.

“As we get further along, and into a phase three of opening, we want people to come to Kawartha Lakes, but here’s the criteria to come here.  We don’t want to put out a message one day and have to change it the next day,” he said.  “Not much we can do about the time of year.  Obviously, this would’ve been better in May, but that’s not what happened.”

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“We have to make the best with what we can do for the rest of the summer.”

The economic recovery task force will meet again on July 21.