Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

With concerns about the pandemic now in the past, how is the 2023 summer tourism season shaping up?

 

According to a report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario released in December of 2022, it was stated that the province’s tourism industry was not fully expected to recover from the pandemic until 2025.

 

 

We reached out to Explore Waterloo Region CEO Michele Saran to get a sense of what the summer tourism season may be bring locally:

 

Q. How much does tourism contribute to our local economy?

 

A. Tourism is big business.  Over 5 million visitors come to our region annually, injecting more than 557M into the economy.  Tourism is also a catalyst for trade.  People may come to our area for a staycation, sporting event or a business meeting and may like what they see and choose to move here, invest here, or send their kids to school at one of our fabulous academic institutions.  Places that are great for visitors are also great for residents.  Everyone wants to live in a place with wonderful restaurants, retail, and attractions as well as nature.

 

Q. What is your prediction for the summer tourism season in Waterloo Region? Better than last year?

 

A. I predict Waterloo Region will have a strong summer season in 2023 surpassing 2022.  It seems that any lingering concerns about COVID are now mostly gone, and Explore Waterloo Region is launching our promotional campaign as early as possible this year. Many people are looking for getaway options closer to home considering inflation etc.  Given a full 96% of visitors to the Region are from other parts of Ontario, we should be in a good position.

 

Q. What is the driving factor for people to get out and explore this summer?

 

A. For 2023, there is still incredible pent-up demand for travel after the pandemic but the driving factor about destination selection is affordability.  People want to get out and have fun, authentic experiences but cost may force many to explore options closer to home.  Luckily, we have those kinds of experiences in abundance in Waterloo Region!

 

Q. Are ‘staycations’ still as popular or are people ready to explore even further this year?

 

A. Search analytics show people are definitely ready to travel internationally but the high cost of air travel and media reports of airport congestion and other challenges are mitigating factors when it comes to actually booking.  “Staycations” are always popular with our target market in Ontario.  Easy getaways that are close to home and affordable.

 

Q. Do labour shortages continue to persist in the hospitality and tourism industry and if so, will it have an impact this summer?

 

A. There are 80% more job openings in our sector now than in 2019.  In fact, of the almost 2000 open positions in Waterloo Region in Q1 of 2023, almost half were tourism related.  That said, our industry is nothing if not adaptable and resilient.  Businesses may have to modify their opening hour and job duties may shift to encompass a broader array of tasks, but everyone is motivated to take advantage of the pandemic winding down.

 

Q. What are people looking for this year when it comes to spending money on tourism, considering the higher cost of living?

 

A. People are leaning into the idea of the “road trip” with friends or family to save money which is exactly how we are marketing to the GTA.  We are positioning Waterloo Region as the ultimate road trip destination with something for everyone.  Cities on the edge on the nature; authentic cultural experiences and incredible farm-to-fork, culinary options.

 

Q. How has Explore Waterloo Region been preparing for the 2023 summer season?

 

A. All throughout 2022 Explore Waterloo Region has been actively working on product development.  We have been looking to leverage our tourism icons and create packages that will make people want to stay longer in our area and spend more. 

This year we will offer some incredible experiences on the Grand River that feature overnight luxury glamping and indigenous-themed feasts; we have another package that celebrates our amazing “farm to fork” culinary offerings where one can have an al fresco dining experience in a beautiful orchard; there will also be a curated Oktoberfest experience that allows one to really see the best of the best of that festival and it includes a luxury hotel stay.  All these experiences will be marketed on www.explorewaterloo.ca and via our aforementioned “road trip” campaign on our social channels.

In terms of our efforts in Business Events and Sport hosting, we always encourage delegates to add on a leisure visit pre or post to make the most of their time in Waterloo Region.

 

Q.  What are a few of the ‘must see’ attractions in our Region this summer?

 

A. There are so many options for people this summer!  Of course, all our annual festivals are back – Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival, Bluesfest, the Waterloo Busker Carnival and Downtown Kitchener and Cambridge both have Ribfests -to name just a few!

For those that want to get outside and be active, there are some wonderful opportunities to Canoe the Grand with Grand River Experiences or explore on horseback.   We also have over 500 km of trails in the Region.  One can hike or cycle them.  Explore Waterloo Region has partnered with Zeitspace on a new cycling app that is hyper-local and will let you plan your route by level of difficulty.  It also layers on all the bike-friendly, certified businesses along the way!

Canada Day offers up the Stihl Timbersports Rookie Championships at Bingemans and Cambridge is celebrating its 50th anniversary at the “Cambridge Celebrates Canada Day” event.

For those seeking a bit of culture, The Neebing Art Fair will be returning to Bingemans showcasing incredible indigenous art.  Of course, St. Jacobs always has something going on and it’s a great launching point to get out and do a farm gate tour through the townships to buy the best in local produce and get a sense of our wonderful Mennonite community.

People can always check out our events calendar at www.explorewaterloo.ca for more detail and options.

 

 

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