From Hilary Chambers, NOTO President
Well, that’s a wrap folks! It’s hard to believe that another season has come to a close. It seems that every year we get busier with more to do, and more to learn to provide for our guests. In these days of enhanced customer service, we all must take on a customer centric approach in our business. We need to put the needs and wants of our customer’s front and center! Listening to our guests and their needs will help us retain current customers and attract new ones. Sometimes it is the little things that count; a screened door on the fish cleaning hut, more comfortable seats in the boats, or softer less glaring lights inside our cabins. Upgrades do not always need to be expensive, but we must always strive to improve in some way.
I believe it was motivational speaking Guru Tony Robbins that introduced me to the idea of “constant and never-ending improvement”. This has become a philosophy in my life. Even if we do one thing every day that moves us forward, that will put us on the right track. Tourist resorts, camps and lodge operators and those in small business are the backbone of the tourist industry, not only in the province, but in all of Canada. Very often we hear that we have a New Tourism Minister who the media says was demoted to Tourism. This is not only incorrect, it is insulting to those who hold that office as well as all of us who contribute more to the GDP than Mining and Forestry combined! Tourism has not been a heavily subsidized industry, but we put our province and our country on the world stage by welcoming guests from all over the globe, including those right here at home in our regions. How they feel about their visit here, reflects how Ontario and Canada is perceived by outsiders and those who call our province home.
I often see the bulk of funding and attention given to large centres such as Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara Falls and their related corporate tourism outfits. While these places do a booming business, the philosophy of a rising tide floats all boats should apply. Without lifting up the smaller, rural and Northern communities there is no way we will meet the goal of doubling tourism receipts by 2020. This lofty goal hits a snag when Northern Ontario has roads with potholes so big you can lose a boat trailer in them, or red tape that hampers small business from operating. Any challenge to small business that hampers the ability to succeed such as insanely high hydro charges, insurance rates that take a quarter of your bottom line, or issues with Land Use Permits or access to resources halt us from the goal of doubling tourism receipts, but also causes intense stress on operators and results in wasting time focusing on all sorts of issues that do not move our businesses or tourism forward.
How do we solve these challenges? We come together as an industry, membership in NOTO, supporting the NOTO Lobby Fund, engaging with your RTO be it RTO12 or RTO13, and getting involved in your community, on boards and yes, sometimes politically. We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines, we are our best advocate.
I have been very fortunate to grow up in NOTO. My father, Bill Chambers a past President, took me to many tourism meetings as a child and teen growing up, sure it might have been weird to be the only kid in the room, but I sure learned that in NOTO we have a VERY strong Tourism Family. Following in my father’s footsteps was a legacy issue for me, both humbling & exciting. I have a love for the North and tourism that was instilled at a young age and it has been one of the greatest honours in my lifetime to be President of this wonderful organization. I thank all of the Board Members whose ideas and direction have been invaluable to both myself and NOTO.
We are very lucky to have a top notch Research and Stakeholder Relations person in NOTO. Kate’s addition to the staff is a real benefit to our office! I also must give a heartfelt thanks to our Executive Director, Laurie Marcil. Laurie keeps everything moving in the organization like a well-oiled machine. Her contribution as one of Northern Ontario’s Biggest Tourism Champions cannot be overstated.
My time on the board as NOTO President has come to an end, and I step back into the role of Past President knowing that through the Strategic Planning Process that I was proud to be a part of, NOTO now has a renewed vision and purpose to chart the course towards the future.
Yours in Tourism,