By Doug Reynolds,
Executive Director, NOTO
f you ask NOTO members why they join, many will tell you that it is to support our lobbying efforts. Most folks in the industry feel strongly that it is important that we have a clear, united voice in order to influence the many policies that affect nature and outdoor tourism. Those of us on the staff who answer your phone calls and emails observe an interesting flip side to this idea of us communicating with government on your behalf.
Many of you look for our help to explain and clarify government policies and initiatives to you. It turns out that our work with government on your behalf is really a two way street. We bring your views to government, but we also communicate and clarify many government programs and initiatives to you.
Over the past year, we have answered a large number of phone calls about the re-introduced GST rebate program, and written articles and email notices. A large number of your guests who have questions about crossing the border with a minor criminal record call the NOTO office directly for advice.
We get questions about forest management plans, hunting and fishing regulations, land tenure, drinking water regulations and property taxes. And the list goes on.
There is also the direct information and support that NOTO provides in support of specific government programs and initiatives. For several years we provided information and consultant support for tourist operators who were negotiating Resource Stewardship Agreements with forest companies. More recently, we provided information and advice on how to incorporate renewable energy sources into tourism operations. Both of these programs were delivered with direct support from the provincial government.
Programs like these make a lot of sense both for government and for NOTO. Governments no longer have large numbers of field staff to assist the industry, as they did in the past. Organizations like NOTO understand the needs of the industry and can communicate with it efficiently and cost effectively. It is clear from the calls we receive that the industry trusts and values NOTO as a reliable source of information.
A good way to describe NOTO’s role in working with government would be as a “bridge”. We help facilitate twoway communication. We bring forth the industry’s concerns to government, but also help bring government information to the attention of the industry. Governments need to consult and communicate with stakeholders, and NOTO is an effective bridge between government and the industry.
We have seen some significant growth in our partnership projects with government over the past while. Although partnership projects with government around tourism marketing have been common for some time, we are now seeing more partnership examples around education, support and industry development.
Over the past year, in addition to our work on renewable energy, supported by MNDM, we also wrote a major strategy paper, Moving Forward – A Resource- Based Tourism Industry Fit for the Future, with support from MNR.
We as well started this year with funding assistance from the Ministry of Tourism for Resource Stewardship Agreements and other industry and support and education initiatives.
We also have projects underway to develop education materials and programs around conservation fishing and wildfire protection thanks to partnerships with MNR. This is not an example of government subsidizing or propping-up NOTO. These projects represent a win-win for industry and government. Government information is delivered effectively to industry while NOTO receives financial support to do what we do well – facilitate effective communications between our industry and government.
Government support of industry is nothing new – we see it in almost every sector of the economy. Forestry, agriculture, manufacturing – name almost any industry and you will find a variety of programs and incentives designed to help those industries grow and prosper. This makes sense; this growth leads to employment and more revenue to government. Tourism receives support too. However, most of that support has been in the form of marketing assistance and subsidies.
The provincial government has recently appointed former finance minister Greg Sorbara to head an Ontario Tourism Competitiveness study. It is very likely that the amount and kind of support that the government provides to the tourism industry will be a topic of discussion. We see the move toward increased emphasis on industry education and information, and on partnerships with industry organizations as an important move in the right direction. If you agree, or have additional ideas to help move the industry forward, I urge you to take advantage of the upcoming opportunities to bring your ideas to Mr. Sorbara and his team.
This article was taken from pages 11 & 12 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, Spring 2008 Issue