Tourism North Bay believes our region is “better poised than most centres” to take advantage of what tourists are looking for post-COVID.
Steve Dreany, Executive Director, says right now they’re targeting Ottawa, Toronto, and the northeast region then will look at bringing in bus tours from the northern U.S in the longer term.
“People are looking for open spaces, fresh air and natural experiences. We have that in abundance,” he says. “Our biggest challenge is to break the habit of stopping at Muskoka or going up to Highway 69 and then going across to Ottawa.”
Dreany reported to Council this week that 2019 was the first year with the Municipal Accommodation Tax and they saw growth in tourism, while Sudbury, Timmins and the province all declined.
He says the pandemic then caused the single biggest disruption to tourism.
“In 2020 North Bay hotels fared a little better than the region and much better than the province in total,” Dreany says.
He says their net revenues declined by $233,000 but with federal assistance and other programs they were able to finish the year with a near-balanced budget.
“It isn’t expected that tourism will return to 2019 levels until at least 2025,” Dreany says. “Some events that were booked for North Bay have been pushed to 2022 and that will help in our recovery.”
Councillor Johanne Brousseau, Community Services Committee Chair, asked Dreany about being well-positioned for the return of sport and going after sport tourism events for 2022 and 2023.
“Even some prior to that, Larry [Tougas], our [sports tourism coordinator], continues to work with a number of different groups and he has some stuff in the hopper,” he says. “We continue to do everything to take advantage of whatever opportunities there are.”