A recovering economy and strong Canadian dollar took its toll on tourism last year.
But Michael Lawley, executive director of Muskoka Tourism, said they are expecting very modest growth in 2012.
“We’re seeing a long, slow recovery to get back to the pre-2008 levels of performance,” he said. “It’s going to be hard work for everybody.”
The tourism industry accounts for 20 per cent of all jobs in Muskoka. It also makes up 57 per cent of the District of Muskoka’s GDP.
“The impact there is twofold,” said Lawley. “With a strong Canadian dollar, we’re seeing fewer U.S. visitors into Ontario because their purchasing power has been decreased over time. But we’re also seeing more Ontario residents that take their travel dollars internationally, based on the strength of the Canadian dollar.”
In the first 11 months of 2011, there were 14.6 million more people who travelled outside of the province than there were coming into the province. That was up 8.3 per cent from the same time period in 2010.
The other challenge is Muskoka is sharing the visitors Ontario gets with more communities.
More communities are taking a stronger approach at marketing themselves as tourism destinations, said Lawley. Communities such as Peterborough and the Kawarthas, the Simcoe-Washago region, Collingwood and Ottawa.
“Those are some competitive destinations that are becoming more aggressive and more top of mind in terms of consumer destinations,” he said.
Muskoka tourism laid out plans earlier this year to bring more tourists to Muskoka, including increasing web traffic and targeting Chinese tourists.