A plan has been laid out to grow tourism in Bonnechere Valley with a three-year strategy to “establish, enhance and emerge” as a hosting economy.

“You embarked on this to see how you can grow the visitor economy, what we call the hosting economy,” noted Richard Innes of Brain Trust in his presentation to council last Tuesday. 

The detailed presentation provided a concise plan for action and growth. He noted the goal was to “responsibly grow the hosting economy of Bonnechere Valley by collaboratively enhancing its attractiveness, appeal and competitiveness.”

He said the new reality of 2023 is the hosting economy is a community builder, a job generator, a path to reconciliation and a protector of natural assets. There is equal focus on economics and the well-being of people and places. 

“It is important to take a local first approach,” he said. “We used to talk to the tourism industry, but now we talk to residents who live in the community.”

Examining who would be a likely person to come to Bonnechere Valley and Eganville, he said the key is looking at high value guests. They are travellers with a higher-than-average income who travel more frequently and have intentions to travel. They are naturally curious, seek culture, engage with locals and value experience over price, as well as loving what Canada offers. 

“These are people who really appreciate slow travel,” he said. 

Some unique differentiators and destination themes he identified the community can use are: 1. Bonnechere River; 2. Valley Heritage, Arts, Culture and 3. Valley Geology. 

“How can we deliver legendary experiences?” he asked, suggesting it would be to celebrate heritage, culture and natural landscapes. 

“The Valley and all that it entails is starting from a position of strength,” he added. 

It is important to encourage visitors to stay longer, or perhaps stay in a neighbouring community and come back, he said. 

In 2023, the plan calls for the approval of the three-year plan, allocating resources to implement the strategy and have a communications plan, including a launch strategy, having a tourism committee and complete website. 

“We need the legs and resources to implement recommendations,” he told council. 

His recommendations also included formally partnering with North Algona Wilberforce (NAW), Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards (KHR) and the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan. Part of this is refining the position of Bonnechere Valley. 

“I believe there is an opportunity to partner with your neighbouring municipalities,” he said. 

Other year one recommendations include prioritizing Bonnechere Museum opportunities and leveraging the power of the heritage/arts/culture, geology and Bonnechere River themes through the promotion, development and delivery of four-season purchasable curated visitor-friendly tourism experiences. 

“I believe the museum is a cornerstone of activity in the municipality,” he said. 

“There are things to work on to enhance the attractiveness of the museum,” he pointed out. 

Mr. Innes also recommended initiating a council-led Eganville downtown revitalization initiative. 

In 2024, the “enhance” year, he recommended enhancing tourism operator performance through capacity building and training. Other recommendations are to identify and address infrastructure/service gaps and extend the length of visitation through visitor experiences. 

In year two, he recommended a tourism development dialogue with Pikwakanagan and develop Bonnechere Valley-Eganville and areas promotional materials. 

For 2025, year three, he said it is the time to “emerge” with proactive steps to market the reasons to visit, partnering with the Ottawa Valley Tourism Association, Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization and Destination Ontario. 

He said it is the time to continue to develop new curated visitor experiences connected to destination themes, four-season events and museum initiatives. This is the year to refresh the tourism plan based on progress made in the first two years. 

“Have a plan that is forward thinking,” Mr. Innes said. 

Slow Travel

Mayor Jennifer Murphy said the idea of slow travel was very attractive to people after witnessing the fiasco at airports and rail lines during the Christmas season last year. People are looking for something different. 

“We heard they were going to discover Ontario and do more Staycations,” she said. 

Having the report at this time is even more timely because of this, she said. 

“This is coming to us at the perfect time,” she noted. 

Mr. Innes said he was pleased to see council looking at the recommendations seriously. 

“The worst thing for me is to do a report and nothing happens,” he said, adding he was always available to provide insight if needed.

“We won’t put it on a shelf and forget about it,” Mayor Murphy promised. 

Councillor Brent Patrick said council would look at the full report and discus it further at the next meeting. 

“This document needs to be shared with our partners in EACDG (Eganville and Area Community Development Group),” the mayor said. 

As well, council is reopening the community plan to look at downtown revitalization. Mayor Murphy said the community improvement plan will be reopened before budget to look at what can be done in the Eganville downtown core. 

Coun. Patrick said branding the community is always a good statement. He noted he was recently wearing his Discover Eganville t-shirt and this creates interest from others in the community. 

Councillor Tracey Sanderson said the museum has just submitted a grant application and more information on that will be coming soon. 

By Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 18, 2023 at 08:51

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eganville Leader   Eganville, Ontario

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