By Stephen Petrick
Haliburton County is more than just a summer cottage community. It’s a four-season destination now and the timing has never been better to market it as such.
That’s the message that new county tourism manager Tracie Bertrand wants known.
“We want to take those traditional visitors that are coming in that [summer] tourism season and create that sense of loyalty, so they visit in the winter and the fall and the spring,” she said.
Bertrand started in her role in early January and will be tasked with helping Haliburton County carry out its Destination Development Plan, a plan that was written in 2019 with help from a Vancouver firm and suggested the region be marketed as a tourism destination in a more widespread fashion, with both the public and private sectors working together.
Her hiring is one step in a broader movement to build tourism and economic growth in the region. Scott Ovell, was recently hired to serve in a new county position, as director of economic development and tourism.
One of Ovell’s first steps was to, in turn, hire Bertrand, as the new tourism manager. Having two people in leadership positions work on tourism is a departure for the county that had one tourism director for eight years. Past director, Amanda Virtanen left the position and took a job outside of the county last summer.
Bertrand brings a wealth of experience to the role. She was the director of tourism for Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development for five years. While there, she worked on marketing programs and initiatives designed to lure investments.
While the word “Peterborough” might make people think urban, she explained the organization was in the game of promoting rural tourism. She learned that, in Canada, and particularly in the Greater Toronto Area, people are very interested in exploring rural regions. She believes areas like Haliburton County can compete for these visitors, just as much as other well-known cottage areas, like Muskoka.
“People are looking for that authentic Canadian feel,” she said. “Because of COVID, the restrictions, the component of being outside as much as possible has really shined a spotlight on rural Ontario destinations. That was there before but now it’s in full demand.”
Bertrand has spent most of her life in the Kawartha region and has a diploma in business administration and marketing from Fleming College. She describes herself as a “country” girl, as she, her husband and two teenage daughters love being outside and engaged in activities, such as fishing and hunting.
She said that, since starting her role, she has been meeting with other people connected to the tourism industry, to get to know them and their thoughts on how tourism in the region can be promoted.
“My first task is to be a visitor; look at this place through the eyes of a visitor; get out as much as I can, meet and see as many of the stakeholders and businesses as much as I can,” she explained.
She said the county has data which is showing that its growth rate is ahead of Canada’s overall growth rate. As Haliburton County is becoming less of a secret to the rest of the country, there’s tremendous opportunity to build on growth.
“Before we’d have to market like crazy to get people to come here; now we don’t have to,” she said. “We know the demand is here but we need to capitalize on it.”