By Emily Stonehouse
The Haliburton County Tourism Department wants to hear your voice. Led by manager of tourism, Tracie Bertrand, they have launched their first annual Resident Sentiment Survey (RSS). “We need to know whether we are moving in the direction that the community wants,” said Bertrand. “This is an opportunity to share opinions about what you like, what you don’t like, and what you need.”
The survey is composed of 16 questions that dive into the tourism sector, or visitor economy, of the Haliburton Highlands. It is designed to inform decision making around the future of this sector in the area.
The survey was kickstarted by the Destination Development Management Plan (DDMP), which Bertrand said she used as a guiding principle for understanding and facilitating community relationships and local initiatives. “The plan indicates a number of actions that should be used to leverage the power of local residents,” said Bertrand. “This is about garnering a community-lead approach to sustainable tourism, we really want to do this right.”
Bertrand, who has been in the position of tourism manager since early 2022, and has spent much of her time garnering relationships with residents and stakeholders from all corners of the Haliburton Highlands. “In my time in this role, I have been going out into the community and talking to people, spending time with people, and it made me realize that we just need to speak to the community first,” she said.
Bertrand partnered with Bannikin Travel and Tourism ltd. as a consultant to establish how the DDMP could be applied and utilized effectively. Bannikin presented at the Tourism Summit that was held in May earlier this year at Sir Sam’s Ski and Ride, and hosted a variety of stakeholders and business owners in the area.
As a result, Trevor Benson, the president and CEO of Bannikin, became invested in the community and the relationships with stakeholders. Bannikin’s consultation was covered 100 per cent from a grant provided by Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO). “We are excited that we got to work with a consultant who went to other tourism regions, and identified what really worked for them, then offered insight for how we can apply it here,” said Bertrand.
Bertrand intends to offer the opportunity to fill out the survey on an annual basis, for at least the next four years. “This isn’t another plan that will just sit on a shelf,” said Bertrand, “this is something we will use to guide us, these relationships are the primary pillar for the development of this sector.”
The survey was developed with support from a focus group that was composed of individuals from every municipality and from multiple sectors beyond the tourism industry. It is designed to be the voice for all residents in Haliburton County. “This is an incredibly engaged community,” said Bertrand, “we went through multiple drafts to get to this point, and we really want to hear what the residents have to say.”
The survey is available on the Haliburton County website, and is also posted on the Minden Times and Haliburton Echo Facebook pages. Paper copies of the survey can be found at all Township Offices, the County of Haliburton Office, and all local libraries. You can also request a copy by contacting the County of Haliburton at 705-286-1333. The deadline for the survey is Sunday, Dec. 18.
By Emily Stonehouse