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United strategy required for tourism industry to grow.

I heard a story the other day about a large Northern Ontario business that spent a good part of 1990 meticulously designing its 10-year plan only to discard this "New Directions" document because it had become irrelevant and out-of-date by October of 1991.

Company management, along with outside consultants, worked on the plan for approximately four months.

Once put to paper, it was printed in large enough quantities to supply most of the staff with a copy. Information sessions were also initiated to discuss the long-term strategies with the company's employees, but before these sessions were completed, the project was shelved because the document had become obsolete.

To some, this story might serve as an example of how difficult it is to plan for the future in the rapidly changing world in which we live. To others, it illustrates the importance of building flexibility into our planning in order to positively react to changes that could come our way.

Many of us in the Northern Ontario tourism industry believe that long-range planning is imperative if the industry is to prosper and grow into the new century. However, it is obvious that our traditional methods of planning will not work in today's marketplace.

Northern Ontario is slowly changing its attitude towards tourism development. In the past it was not uncommon for government and business tourism agencies to operate totally independently of each other. Each worked towards its own mandate, sometimes unaware of the programs and policies put in place by the other.

We can no longer afford to operate in this manner. Tourism may well be Northern Ontario's second-largest industry by now - not because of any growth it's enjoyed, but because of the decline we've experienced in our traditionally strong resource-based sectors.

Tourism, therefore, and its growth is more critical than ever to the Northern Ontario economy.

Second, there simply is not enough money, time or human resources available to waste in making mistakes or in duplicating our efforts.

If there is potential for the tourism industry to grow, we must begin immediately to pool our resources and to work together to build one united long-term strategy for the benefit of the whole Northern Ontario economy.

The first step in designing a successful tourism strategy for Northern Ontario is to bring all of the players together.

The players should include government and private-sector groups such as FedNor, the provincial ministries of Tourism and Recreation, Northern Development and Mines, Natural Resources and Skills Development, our municipal visitor and convention bureaus and EDC offices, tourism associations such as NOTO (Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters) and the provincial OTAPS, chambers of commerce, the hotel and motel associations and our universities and colleges.

The next step is to build flexibility into the planning, ensuring that it has the ability to adapt readily to rapid change.

There is no mystery to designing a strategy of this type. Crisis communication planners have become experts at building the change factor into their strategic plans.

In crisis communication, the key operative is to incorporate a number of possible scenarios into the master plan.

The International Association of Business Communicators has become a leader in designing successful crisis work plans. Samples are easily obtainable through the association's head office in San Francisco, or through one of its members.

If a method of environmental scanning were to be built into the long-range plan, it would keep us alert to the changes happening in the world, thereby making it easier for us to evaluate the potential impact these changes could have on our local industry and to identify any opportunities that might appear.

It would also be beneficial to institute a regional education and awareness program to provide information to our residents about the importance of tourism growth to the region's present and future economy.

Many people in Northern Ontario have yet to recognize tourism as a major industry and are unaware that a healthy tourism industry will favorably impact on the region's economic future, as well as the quality of life of our citizens.

It is also important that our universities and colleges continue to offer first-rate tourism programs to ensure that Northern Ontario has the necessary industry professionals to lead us successfully into the new century.

While most of us agree that we should begin as soon as possible to build this united tourism strategy for the future, no single organization has come forward, as yet, to take the lead in bringing the players to the table.

Deborah Krupa is president and owner of Deborah Krupa & Associates, a Thunder Bay-based marketing and public relations firm.
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Article Details
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Author:Krupa, Deborah
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:764
Previous Article:Northern firms prosper in changing economy.
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