After a two-year struggle due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tourism Kingston has some big plans to revitalize the city’s tourism sector.
The organization has a new 25-point strategy that aims to put the spotlight on the city.
“We are still moving out of a pandemic, so there are considerations of labour shortages and budgets that we appreciate,” says Megan Knott, executive director of Tourism Kingston.
“But certainly, we want to be a destination that’s for everyone, all seasons.”
The strategy outlines both long-term and short-term goals to be achieved by 2025.
In the short-term, Knott says Tourism Kingston will be working to enter into longer-leasing agreements with the Kingston Penitentiary, which is already being used for tours and filming, to offer a wider array of event opportunities, like weddings and concerts.
The organization will also work with community partners to identify more areas of the city to be turned into pedestrian-only zones, similar to what the city already does with the Princess Street promenade.
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But Tourism Kingston hasn’t ruled out the idea of choosing a street to close permanently to traffic.
“Is it permanent in nature, or is it temporary in nature, or is it very short-term in terms of like a weekend event?” Knott says.
“I think we can pair all of those together to ensure that we are not creating backlog for public transportation, we are not creating shortages in parking, but we’re certainly opening up areas and more consistently to create those walkable zones.”
One local business owner, Michael Tenenhouse of A-One Clothing Store, says that while more tourism is great for business, he is apprehensive about the city potentially closing streets to traffic, especially permanently.
“I just think it would make it more difficult for cars and vehicles and deliveries,” he says.
“I think Kingston’s a very walkable city in the downtown already. I don’t think closing another main artery permanently would make it that much better.”
In the long term, Knott says Tourism Kingston has identified larger infrastructure projects like offering a deep water dock for tour ships, and opening a conference centre.
“We know that the last business report shows that Kingston needs a larger space to hold medium-sized functions,” she says.
These could be business functions, sports, or community functions, she adds. “So it’s definitely a priority of ours.”
While Knott says the larger projects will take more time, she says the city could see shorter-term goals, like closing certain streets to traffic, as soon as 2023.