Tourism is back in style

By Bobbi Ann Brady, MPP

The tourism industry, both locally and across Ontario, has been booming after a lapse due to COVID shutdowns.

I learned more about the industry while attending the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference in London. During a presentation, from several industry groups, I learned how important tourism has become.

Tourism employs 9.3 per cent of the workforce in Canada. That’s a big number. But, in addition, it provides work experience for 50 per cent of Canadians.

Provincially, the Ontario Tourism Education Council predicted that tourism revenues will recover to pre-pandemic levels by this year and will grow 16 per cent by 2025 to $87 billion. The expansion over the next two years is expected to create more than 726,000 jobs.

I also learned there are challenges: industry representatives identified inflation, debt loads, interest rates and the labour crisis. Although it wasn’t mentioned, I imagine that insurance rates are also an issue. It is expected that labour vacancies in the industry will outweigh the number who are unemployed. I still maintain that allowing those who are on ODSP to work more hours without clawbacks to their assistance payments would help fill these gaps.

But, enough of the negative, let’s look at some tourism successes.

The most obvious recent win is the growing number of estate wineries and microbreweries. I remember being a young reporter for the Delhi News-Record when Golden Leaf Estate Winery opened. Who knew the industry would grow to this point? And there are burgeoning cider makers microbreweries across both counties.

One hidden gem that recently opened is Pure Spirits, a distillery in Delhi’s former Imperial Tobacco factory. This business may be new, but it is already immersed in the community.

If there is undiscovered treasure in both Haldimand and Norfolk, it’s got to be the museums. A standout is No. 6 RCAF Museum in Dunnville, which tells the history of the Royal Canadian Air Force. It’s hard to imagine there were once bases in Hagersville, Jarvis and Dunnville. Those interested in marine history, should visit the Port Dover Harbour Museum. Port Cottonwood Mansion and Ruthven National Historic Site are prime examples of architectural history. Others include the Wilson MacDonald Memorial School, Edinburgh Square in Caledonia, the heritage centre in Cayuga, Delhi Tobacco Museum, Waterford Heritage and Agricultural Museum and Backus Mill.

One growing aspect of the tourism industry is environmental tourism. Haldimand-Norfolk is well suited on this front. In Haldimand, the Grand River is a real gem attracting boaters, kayakers, canoeists, anglers and other nature lovers. On the Norfolk side, Long Point Bay is the big attraction for anglers, boaters, and a growing number of kayakers. In between, of course, are kilometres of Lake Erie shoreline that is its own attraction.

In addition to the five provincial parks in the riding, there are numerous conservation areas owned by Long Point Region Conservation Area and Grand River Conservation Authority. Byng Island and Backus are stand-outs amongst these properties.

And then there’s the beaches. People drive hundreds of miles to enjoy beaches at Port Dover, Turkey Point and Long Point. We also shouldn’t discount the beaches along Long Point, and in Haldimand County, used by cottage owners and boaters.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Haldimand-Norfolk’s festivals. If another area hadn’t stolen the moniker “Festival Country”, it could surely apply here.

As I travelled the riding over the past year, I have seen tourism is a large and growing industry. I salute the business owners and employees working in this field. We need not leave Haldimand-Norfolk to enjoy a wide array of tourist attractions.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk.