Supporting tourism industry top priority

Last week, our region’s tourism industry was blindsided by news that the three provincially-funded tourist information centres in our region would close permanently this spring.
This decision is unacceptable, misguided, and needs to be reversed immediately—and I am fully committed to fighting this decision using all means necessary.
The Ministry of Tourism and Culture defends the decision by arguing that visits to the centres are down and that the ministry wants to move to online tourism marketing.
The problem with this reasoning is that the northwest doesn’t yet have the infrastructure in place to support such a move. Businesses, residents, and tourists alike do not have the reliable or universal access to high-speed Internet that is required to participate in, and benefit from, online marketing.
As such, there still are many businesses in our region that do not have websites. And if they do, they may not even work in low-speed Internet areas.
Whether it is fishing, hunting, canoeing, or camping, we all know that, by and large, most of our tourism in the northwest is nature-based, and in places that are inherently difficult to obtain Internet or cellular services.
So even with the advent of cellphone “apps,” this does little to help market tourism.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how strong the argument is in favour of moving to online marketing for tourism if we lack the basic infrastructure to access it. We also have to remember that not everyone owns an iPhone, iPad, or laptop—or even knows how to use them.
Does this mean that we should give up on these visitors? What kind of a signal does it send if there isn’t anyone to greet them once they cross the border to offer directions or welcome them to our country?
Call me old-fashioned but there is something to be said for greeting someone personally with a smile, a sense of humour, and the offer of assistance. It makes them feel welcome.
Tourist camps and outfitters keep northern businesses alive, both in our local communities and in regional hubs such as Thunder Bay. Tourists visit our restaurants and stores, and camp owners themselves are known to invest thousands of dollars per week in our regional economy.
This decision will be a disaster not only for our region, but Northern Ontario as a whole. I have raised this issue at Queen’s Park and I will continue to raise it until this decision is reversed.
So far, I have met with the two Thunder Bay MPPs, as well as a number of other northern MPPs, and my offices are circulating a petition to reverse this decision.
We all need to get involved. For more information on what you can do to help, call 1-800-465-8501 or e-mail scampbell-qp@ndp.on.ca

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