By Jenn Watt
Published June 18 2019
A study released last week found that District 6 the area covering Haliburton through to Pembroke was the most commonly visited region in Ontario by snowmobilers in the 2018-2019 season.
The report created by Harry Cummings and Associates Ltd for the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs was based on 10464 responses to a survey sent to those with OFSC permits as well as permit holders from the past five years.
The survey found that the northern parts of Ontario had a better than usual winter for snowmobiling with about 17 weeks of good conditions whereas the two largest districts by population in southern Ontario (districts 4 and 5) only had available trails for one to four weeks due to rain and freezing rain.
A third of those surveyed said they snowmobiled less than in most years.
The good news for the Highlands and the rest of District 6 was that it ended up being the most popular area with 11.5 per cent of respondents saying it was the area they most commonly chose to ride.
“When looking at the districts where respondents ride most frequently second most frequently and third most frequently District 6 (Haliburton Pembroke) was most frequently [cited] as a riding destination at 11.8 per cent of all reported destinations” the study reads.
The survey also sought to estimate spending and economic impact of snowmobiling in the province using the TREIM.
TREIM stands for “tourism regional economic impact model” which the report says is used by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport to determine the economic impact of spending in the tourism sector.
“Using the above spending the TREIM model produces estimates of impact on direct indirect and induced GDP and employment as well as total taxes. … The impact of snowmobiling in District 6 was calculated as the following: GDP: $63355620; Employment: 776 jobs; Taxes: $28537990” the report states.
Direct GDP or gross domestic product was listed as $45775490. The report says “Direct impacts measure the actual expenditures of snowmobilers; indirect impacts refer to the economic value contributed by suppliers to tourism restaurants and other service providers that sell to snowmobilers in Ontario; and induced impacts examine the expenditures of the employees and firms supported by the snowmobile industry itself.”
John Enright a director with the Haliburton County Snowmobile Association has been snowmobiling for 40 years and said that the report’s estimates for how much sledders spend on fuel taxes insurance accommodations and food all seem in line with his experience.
He thought that the numbers in the survey may have been low for Haliburton one of 14 clubs that represent snowmobilers within District 6.
“We get the feeling based on the traffic last winter that the numbers and dollars shown may be on the low side; having said that feelings and actual results are two different things. The reason for this feeling is the survey is of activity in eastern Ontario most of our ridership from outside Haliburton is south and west where there is more population” Enright said in an email to the Echo.
He said the region offered diverse features for visitors in a location relatively close to their homes.
“Our area is always right up in high ridership because of its proximity to the GTA. We are close for a day run with trailside eateries accommodations and very unique one-of-a-kind outdoor experiences a high trestle bridge a floating bridge ice caves and a trail that was originally a road older than Canada just to name a few [plus] the only snowmobile trail through Algonquin Park.”
Enright said the HCSA intends to use the information from the report when talking to stakeholders in the community including to municipal councils the county tourism department Haliburton BIA and chamber of commerce.
Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization which promotes approximately the same region as District 6 was not involved in the survey but was aware of the report.
Julie Mulligan marketing manager for Ontario’s Highlands said she wasn’t surprised by the findings.
“Snow conditions are excellent in the region and the trails are very well maintained by the local snowmobile clubs. We also have tourism operators who see the value of snowmobiling and thus are committed to providing a great experience to the visitor” she said in an email to the Echo.
“In recognizing the value of snowmobiling in the region we have committed resources to raise the awareness of Ontario’s Highlands as a destination and attracting visitors mostly in the form of targeted digital advertising. Last year OHTO invested funds into creating video content around specific winter experiences to promote to the consumer one being focused on snowmobiling. This video saw one of the highest audience reaches and just over 134000 views. This speaks to the popularity of snowmobiling in the region as well as how attractive it is to the consumer as a winter tourism experience.”
Mulligan said the information from the OFSC’s report would assist in promoting the region as a snowmobiling destination and that Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization would relaunch its video next winter to continue attracting visitors.
Those in the tourism industry in Haliburton could take advantage of the survey’s findings as well.
“Tourism professionals in the Haliburton area can use this information as a way to see the value of snowmobiling tourism as an economic driver and implement tactics into their business to attract the consumer year after year” she said.
Overall the report’s authors concluded that snowmobiling expenditures contributed $403.9 million in direct GDP in Ontario for the 2018-2019 season with direct employment from those expenditures estimated at 6436 full-time equivalent jobs.