Council told tourism benefits C-K

Mitchell’s Bay

By Greg Holden

Chatham-Kent Council heard a presentation last night from Jim Hudson, Executive Director of South West Ontario Tourism, that outlined the benefits of tourism for the region.

Hudson said Ontario tourism brings in over $21 billion to the economy and in 2009 that amounted to $56.3 million to Chatham-Kent businesses. Pushing aside notions that tourism only generates seasonal and low paying jobs, Hudson pointed out that the average wage for workers in tourism was over $19 an hour. In explaining why C-K should look to increase tourism, Hudson said that manufacturing jobs peaked in 2002 and have been declining ever since, whereas tourism grows steadily every year (up 2.3% in 2010) in spite of parity with the US dollar, rising gas prices and high local taxes.

In his presentation Hudson claimed that tourism gets a bad reputation in part because it creates traffic congestion and overcrowding, to which Councillor Derek Robertson said “Bring it on.”

South West Ontario Tourism is a new provincial initiative funded entirely by Queens Park and has a zero cost to the municipal government. It’s mandate is to promote tourism in the region and Hudson’s presentation was to encourage council to increase tourism and advise council of his organization’s activities, as well as explaining what South West Ontario Tourism is.

The organization itself is composed primarily by private sector people in the tourism industry. Hudson says this is not an extra layer of government, but instead it moves control of regional tourism closer to tourism professionals in the region.

Citing one of the challenges his group faces is that a large number of roofed accommodations are in the cities while the majority of tourist attractions are in rural areas, Hudson talked about finding companies to work together to overcome such obstacles.

With over 900 km of shoreline and vast stretches of riverfront Chatham-Kent has huge tourism assets, and according to Hudson 545 thousand people make overnight stays in Ontario every year that involve going to the beach.

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