MUSKOKA — Muskoka may be seeing more Chinese tourists in 2012.
MUSKOKA TOURISM AGM.
The 2011 Muskoka Tourism annual general meeting was held at The Rosseau in Minett on Tuesday, March 20. Speaker and general manager of Muskoka Tourism Michael Lawley went through the agenda to a very packed and interested audience.
Photo by Bev McMullen
Since the recession in 2008, tourism in Muskoka, along with the rest of Ontario, has had a long, slow recovery. At its 2011 annual general meeting on March 20, Muskoka Tourism looked at different ways to grow tourism in Muskoka.
Michael Lawley, executive director of Muskoka Tourism, said they are looking for areas to develop and break new ground for tourism that they have not explored yet.
“We need to take some risks and go in a direction that others aren’t currently going,” he said.
In this case, that means bringing in more Chinese visitors.
The inspiration came from Bethune House.
Last year there were 13,000 visitors who came to Bethune House in Gravenhurst, said Lawley. Twenty-five per cent of those were from mainland China. The rest were from the Greater Toronto Area.
There’s an opportunity to engage the Chinese community in Toronto even more in Muskoka, not only in Gravenhurst, but also with Algonquin Park and other overnight opportunities, he said.
The agency is also planning to target mainland China.
“When the G8 was here in 2010, one of the agreements that was signed between the government of Canada and the People’s Republic of China was an approved destination status,” said Lawley.
That means the doors are now open for more mainland Chinese visitors to come to Canada.
China is now the third highest source for tourism in Ontario, bumping out Japan and France who previously sat in that position. The United Kingdom and Germany sit in first and second place.
Muskoka Tourism decided one of those tourism directions would be to target more meetings and conferences.
“We’re going into the marketplace and we’re positioning Muskoka as a preferred meeting destination,” he said.
That’s nothing new, but they’d like to elevate their presence in that area, he said, trying to encourage meeting planners to choose Muskoka as the place for meetings, both for corporations and associations.
Muskoka Tourism is also moving further into the digital world.
In January it launched a new website at discovermuskoka.ca, which allows for greater search engine optimization.
Each page can be optimized, said Lawley, something the old website couldn’t do.
The organization also plans to become more aggressively involved in Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by purchasing advertising and key words.