By Jim Antler, Former Research Analyst
Ontario's new Tourism-Oriented Directional Sign (TODS) system has arrived.
The new system will replace the old brown and white "fingerboard" and resort-recreational area signs along freeway and highway right-of-ways that were administered by the Ministry of Transportation.
The new system is being administered by Canadian TODS Limited, a private-sector company, which was recently awarded a 10 year contract under the supervision of the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism (MEDTT), and the Ministry of Transportation (MOT).
The existing Bush Country/Field Advertising signage system (billboard signs off highway right-of-way) will not be affected as it is a completely different system. It will continue to be administered by the Ministry of Transportation.
What Will the New Signs Look Like and How Much will they Cost?
The new signs will feature white writing on a blue background, and will utilize a stylized "Ontario" logo to provide a consistent visual image throughout the signage system.
They will display the business name and display generic logos for the various categories of tourism businesses that are eligible to be signed under the new system.
Major attractions (more than 30,000 visitors per year), may place their corporate logo on the signs if they wish.
The new signs will be larger and more visually attractive than under the old system, but will cost more.
Under the terms of the privatization contract, however, sign prices will be fixed for the first 5 years.
There are 8 basic sign types under the new system. The sign type utilized depends on whether the sign is located on a Freeway, King's Highway, or a secondary/municipal roadway.
For our industry, however, most businesses will be interested in the King's Highway Regular Attraction signs, and Trailblazer signs.
a) King's Highway Regular Attraction Signs
In Northern Ontario these signs will be installed on the following highways: 11, 17, 60, 69, 6, 65, 66, 101, 631, 61, 71, 72 and 105.
They will cost $153 annually for each sign you have.
Each business on the sign will have a sign that is 240cm(8 feet) wide by 60cm(2 feet) high, compared to the old fingerboard signs which were 90cm(3 feet) wide and 25cm (10 inches) high.
b) Trailblazer Signs
These signs will be found on secondary highways, municipal roads etc., and will be used to help direct travellers to your business once they exit off a King's Highway.
You cannot just have a trailblazer sign under the new system. They must be used in combination with King's Highway or freeway signs.
On high speed roads, trailblazer signs for each business will cost $153 annually and will be 8 feet wide by 2 feet high. On low speed road, they will cost $60 annually and be 4 feet wide by 1 foot high.
Who Will be Eligible for Signs Under the New System?
There are a number of basic criteria that all businesses will have to meet to be eligible under the new system. There are also specific criteria for 43 different types of tourism businesses or attractions which must also be met.
1) Basic Eligibility Criteria
To be eligible for tourism signing, a tourist business or attraction must:
- serve transient customers;
- comply with all applicable federal, provincial and municipal legislation;
- be accessible by a road open to public traffic;
- be open to the public at least 12 consecutive weeks per year, unless specified in the specific criteria for that category of operation;
- be open at least 5 days a week during its open season (unless otherwise specified) on advertised set days and times;
- have a reception structure - a controlled gate, or staffed reception and orientation point, or permanent interpretation panels or displays;
- advertise its location, operating season and hours, contact information, and facilities, either in MEDTT tourism publications, or in publicity material regularly distributed in Ontario or appropriate regional/local Travel Information Centres; and
- be within 40 kilometres of the intersection of the provincial roadway; except that, where sign space is not required for nearer operations, more distant operations can be signed.
2) Specific Eligibility Criteria
As noted earlier, there are specific criteria that must also be met for 43 different categories of tourism businesses and attractions that can be signed under the new system.
For our industry, the key categories are Transient Accommodation, Destination Accommodation, Fishing/Hunting Lodges and Outpost Camps, Campgrounds, Outfitters and Marinas.
i) Transient Accommodation
Transient accommodation is defined as accommodation where the reasons for the trip is something other than staying at the property itself. To be eligible as transient accommodation, an operation must:
- meet basic criteria (above);
- have a minimum of 10 units;
- have relevant license as accommodation under the Tourism Act;
- have adequate guest parking on site;
- be open to the general public for a minimum of 16 weeks per year;
- be open 7 days a week during the operating season.
ii) Destination Accommodation
Destination accommodation is defined as accommodations where the reason for the trip is based on the recreational and leisure facilities and services offered on site; and are located in a rural, non-urban or small village environment, usually by a lake or river.
To be eligible as destination accommodation, an operation must:
- qualify as transient accommodation;
- offer on site food services or preparation facilities;
- offer a minimum of 3 recreational activities or programs on site daily when open. At least 2 of these must be outdoor activities. One may be a major indoor activity;
- equipment required for the activities must be available on site.
iii) Fishing/Hunting Lodges and Outpost Camps
To be signed as a Fishing/Hunting Lodge and/or Outpost Camp an operation must:
- meet basic criteria;
- qualify for signing as a destination or transient accommodation, campground or outfitter;
- provide a variety of supplies, equipment and services necessary to support wilderness/outdoor excursions to the public;
- where an outpost camp is normally reached by air or water transport starting from a permanent, regular access point that is reachable by motor traffic, then that access point is the location that must be signed. The permanent access point must have adequate off-road parking.
To be signed as a campground, an operation must:
- meet basic criteria;
- make available for booking by the transient public either 10% of its camping sites, or a minimum of 10 spaces, whichever is larger;
- include both tent and trailer sites among the sites available to the transient public;
- have an entrance controlling admission to the site; and
- supply sanitary facilities, drinking water, and picnic tables or equivalent.
v) Outfitters (Fishing, Hunting, Camping)
To be signed as an outfitter, an operation must:
- meet basic criteria;
- be accessible to the motoring public;
- be situated in a rural environment adjacent to some type of recreational area such as a lake/beach, river, fishing and hunting area; and
- be an outfitter furnishing equipment, supplies and/or services to customers in connection with angling, hunting or camping
To be signed as a marina, an operation must:
- meet basic criteria;
- maintain at least 10 spaces for rental to the transient public;
- offer marine fuel facilities;
- offer docking facilities including a boat launching ramp;
- offer fresh/portable water;
- provide sanitary disposal facilities, either on site or immediately adjacent.
How Will the Sign System be Delivered?
Canadian TODS Limited has divided up the province into 10 areas and has hired a regional contractor in each area to install and maintain the signs. All signs will be made in the Toronto area.
Each area will also have a regional Account Executive who will oversee the sign sales. These individuals have not been announced yet.
Northern Ontario has been divided up into 4 areas, based on the provincial Travel Association boundaries.
Area 10 will cover the Sunset Country travel area. The Account Executive and sign contractor (Lake of the Woods Electric Ltd.) will be located in Kenora.
Area 9 will cover the North of Superior travel area. The Account Executive and sign contractor (Mediacom Inc.) will be located in Thunder Bay.
Area 8 will basically cover the Algoma Country and James Bay Frontier travel areas, except for the area around Kirkland Lake. The Account Executive will be located in Timmins and the sign contractor (Northern Fencing and Guard Rail) in Sault Ste. Marie.
Area 7 will cover the Rainbow Country and Near North travel areas, including Kirkland Lake area. The Account Executive and sign contractor (AB's Billposting Ltd.) will be located in the Sudbury area.
For operators located outside of these areas, Area 5 will cover Highway 17 east of Mattawa and will include the Highway 60 corridor. The Account Executive and sign contractor (B&B Neon Ltd.) will be located in the Ottawa area.
Area 6 will include operators south of Parry Sound to Barrie and will run east almost to Highway 141. The Account Executive and sign contractor (Muskoka Signs Ltd.) will be located in Gravenhurst.
Canadian TODS will begin marketing the new system in all 10 areas of the province beginning in February 1997. They hope to have all new signs in place within 19 months.
How Do I Apply for a New Sign?
Account Executives for Canadian TODS Limited will be contacting eligible businesses to determine their interest in applying for a new sign. They will help businesses complete the necessary applications and paperwork.
You can also contact Canadian TODS Limited directly at 1-888-263-9333 to advise them if you are interested in applying for a new sign.
How Will Successful Sign Applicants be Determined?
If your application is approved, you will be notified in writing. Your Account Executive will then follow-up to help you complete the sign contract and help in the design of your sign.
Where there are more eligible applicants than sign space available, Canadian TODS will make decisions based on 2 criteria: Attendance and Proximity to Intersection.
If attendance figures are equal, the operation closest to the provincial highway will be chosen.
What Will Happen to Existing Signs Under the Old System?
As signs for the new system are installed, all existing tourism-oriented signs will be removed.
What Will Happen if I Already Have a Sign Under the Old System?
Existing sign holders will have to meet eligibility criteria and re-apply for a new sign. No preference will be given to existing sign holders.
If you are not selected to receive a new sign, your old one will be removed when the new signs are installed.
Who Can I Contact for More Information?
You can contact Canadian TODS Limited at 1-888-263-9333 or (905)851-1322. Their mailing address is 120 Whitmore Road, Unit ##8, Woodbridge, Ontario L4L 6A3.
This article was taken from pages 15-18 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, March/April 1997 Issue