Ready to discuss strengths, weaknesses of area tourism

Published on January 14, 2010

It’s January and the tourism season is months away, but many people are already deciding where to spend their summer vacations. Will we be ready for those who come here?

That is a key point in an assessment done last summer of the area’s tourism strengths and weaknesses. It looks at how visitors discover our communities, how they can be persuaded to stay a little longer, and how they can be convinced to leave some of their money behind.

The province’s Tourism, Culture and Heritage department commissioned the assessment by Destination Development Inc. of Seattle, which sent ‘secret shoppers’ to this area last summer to look at tourism assets and how they can be better used.

The assessment was led by Roger Brooks, who presented the assessment’s findings in a two-and-a-half-hour workshop in late September.

Brooks has also published the 104-page follow-up report that includes a review of local marketing efforts, signage, attractions, critical mass, retail mix, ease of getting around, customer service, visitor amenities such as parking and public washrooms, overall appeal, and the communities ability to attract overnight visitors.

The report is expected to become the basis of a number of public meetings this year.

Mayor Ben Cleveland said the town has asked for support from the Annapolis Digby Economic Development Agency in setting up a public meeting with town businesses and residents, looking for comments and suggestions on improving Digby’s tourism potential and appeal.

As well, Digby Area Tourism Association is looking for provincial government funding for the second phase of a tourism development plan that would include many of the aspects of the Brooks’ report.

DATA member Robert Hersey said the association is also asking community businesses and organizations to look for opportunities where partnerships can help enhance the tourism product in the area.

Hersey said DATA is planning a series of meetings to gather input. Dates should be announced in the near future.

The Rogers’ report emphasizes that downtown cores are perhaps the critical component in swaying the opinions of visitors: “The communities that are most successful at attracting visitors work hard at beautification. Digby, home of the world’s famous scallop fleet, has a type of seaside charm all its own. One thing that was lacking in general, though, was beautification of the retail core. “Adding pots and planters (evergreen shrubs and seasonal flowers), outdoor seating, and menu boards outside helps pull those customers into the shops and restaurants. Good curb appeal is an investment with incredible return,” the assessment concludes. A copy of the report, Assessment, Findings and Suggestionsis available for download from the website under the ‘Tourism-Special Report’ section