Tourism touts – You’re welcome reeves and councilors

A HIGHLANDER RANTS

May 7 is the date set for tourism town hall

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I have done the due diligence and the haliburton Hell Hang is coming! 500,000 visitors in a four month span.

By Terrance Gavan – Rant Specialist – Haliburton News.ca

We have been inundated of late with the curious and cluster ducked detritus of the tourism debate in this neck of god’s gobsmacked hectare.

The legendary leaky boat contains a fabled and esoteric laundry list of intemperate ‘woe is us’ whining, which existentially surround such things as stakeholders, county marketing strategies and tourism talking points.

We have no doubt that each of the players – stakeholders and pols – have their own set of complaints, fix it strategies and tales of batcrap crazy ideas.

Here’s mine. And it never fails to draw the ire and derision of everyone who hears it.

It’s quite simple. A zip line from the Haliburton Lookout right into Head Lake. I guarantee 500,000 unique visitors per year between June 1 and Labor Day.

And they laugh. Oh, how they laugh.

Well, screw ’em. I’m not blowin’ smoke. The “Haliburton Hell Hang” (that’s the name and I’m stickin’ to it) would derive at least $1 million in tee shirt sales alone. “Hell Hang Survivor!” “I rode… the world’s longest zip line!” “Wheeeeeeeeeeee! Hell Hang Rider!” “Zip it Buddy!” “I been to Hell… Hang!… in Haliburton! And all I got was this stupid Tee-Shirt!”

At $225 per ride? The Haliburton Highlands would rank right up there with Whistler and Disneyworld.

Hotels, resorts, restaurants and superfluous businesses would fluorish. And owners? Well most of local business owners could just take the winter off and head to Florida from October to May. The monies generated in the four month window would surpass any of the frankly ludicrous notions being espoused by County Haliburton and our well-meaning but small-thinking tourism stakeholders.

Due props to Yours Outdoors and Barrie Martin. But Barrie? Let’s face it. We can strive mightily to engage people with winter strategies for tourism and, hey… you go brother! But the bottom line? People hate snow. They hate the cold. And those that don’t? Well, they own snowmobiles and cottages already. Our winter strategies preach to the converted. And why bother preaching if? They’re coming anyways.

Go Big or Go Home. And yes that’s both a tee shirt slogan and a commentary on the current harangue that stalks this county. We are deader than cold fusion here in cottage country.

For starters. Cottage Country. that’s our goddam nickname. How do you sell Cottage Country in the winter? You can’t. So let us just commit to the notion that having no farmland, no population base, no sidebar businesses and absolutely no prospects for attracting permanent residents that we are doomed to our fate. To wit: let’s quit technicolor dreams that espouse a working paradigm for drawing tourists here in the winter. Ain’t going to happen. And we ain’t drawing permanent residents either. One option, the remake of this area into a great big retirement village is one of the few operational standards that holds water.

But we have shortsighted councils and a county that seems bereft of any organizational template to bring that to fruition.

Did you know that our elected reps, most of them anyway, laugh at the notion of a pool and recreational complex. They don’t just laugh. They think – really they do – that anyone who espouses any notion that a pool complex is feasible should be committed to the Funny Factory. And placed there until they all become clockwork oranged and melded to the Borgian whole. yes! They will make straw baskets until they see the light and become just as myopic as a small town reeve.

Yes County can afford to pay an economic development director in excess of $750,000 since 2005, but that same county finds the idea of a $1 million rec and pool centre uproariously funny. Some forward-leaning doctors in the area – thank god for that base of sanity – saw fit to donate $5,000 in search of a pool fund, because they see some logical benefits in keeping our seniors fit and entrenched right here. In cottage country.

What’s the point? What’s the point of this Town Hall slated for May 5? Well, it’ll give the stakeholders some input into tourism mandates. And of course we need that. We need to have these bed and breakfasts, business people and resorts invested in this area. Look at Main Street Haliburton. In the last 25 days we have heard this line about 20 times. “You could shoot a cannon off on Main Street and not hurt a soul.”

There’s a reason for that. Main Street – okay it’s Highland and York Streets – is a a game of musical chairs. The music stops and four businesses disappear… and another three enter the game. One winter and it’s sayonara. The music starts and wheee! More empty buildings appear like tumbleweeds on an Arizona freeway.

And it ain’t too difficult to parse. We live in a spot that delights the imagination about three months of the year. But for those three months?

Oh! My! God! Do we rock. Swimming, tubing, hiking, biking, eating, camping, sunning, kayaking and tubing. Yes tubing is that popular. We are cottage country, and cottage country is exactly where cubicle-hunched Area 12 coal shovelers want to be. Come Friday, all roads from the GTA lead north.

In the summer, businesses in downtown Haliburton and Minden spill warm, pliable and wealthy barber bodies from orifices like the octomom on steroids.

And it’s wonderful for our economy and our spirits. For an instant… we feel like Haliburton has become, of a sudden, the Cannes of Canada. Beautiful. Of course it is. For one, we are not privy to the doom and the gloom of “shoulder season.” Where business owners and politicians seem inured to the harsh fact of our economy.

Our economy? It is mostly moribund. It is stagnant. And it suffers fools gladly. QED!

In the summer, between about June 1 and Labor Day. We will hear none of the woebegone reckonings about who’s doing what to fix the seasonal dysfunction that inevitably crops up during the winter.

You know, winter. That ungodly white whip of gut-ripping nonchalance. Winter is Haliburton’s Godzilla. It stomps into town churning start-ups into dismal rubble.

We have another idea. This one is less spectacular. But it’s solid. And doable. Right now. Immediately.

Minden and Haliburton. We have been to council and I hear the pleas. “What can we do to bring the cottagers into town?”

No one turns to the reporter’s table in chambers and says: “Hey you… Pardon the Eruption… got any viable ideas?”

Okay, thanks Reeves Murray, Barb, Dave and Carol. I am humbled by your interest.

How about this?

Set up your downtown hubs to distribute free high speed Internet. You want people coming to town? This will do it! And it’s a no brainer. They’ve been doing it in Starbucks for years. Know where I head in Calgary when I’m looking for a Cuppa Joe (shameless plug for our humor guy) and a croissant? Starbucks. I pay exorbitantly through the nose for a triple swoosh, quadruple shot espresso and I sit down at a table and I plop my laptop down. Free Wi-Fi baby. Tim Hortons ain’t got.

Free wi-fi in Haliburton and Minden! There’s an idea that will fly. They’ll – the cottagers and visitors – come armed with laptops and they’ll sit in the restaurants and they’ll tune in their iPhones to the free Wi-fi and they will set their kids and their grannies loose on the town centre.

Oh… and just imagine the streaming video that could generate in Haliburton alone. Picture 5,000 people lined up at the municipal docks filming their mom or dad or siblings as they come rollin’ down the Haliburton Hell Hang Zip Line. Sploosh! What a splash!¬†Right into the lake.

Shared live via free wifi right to Youtube. Cha……. Ching baby! Cha-ching!

I know. I know. But no need! Really.

Reeves? Councilors? Stakeholders?

You’re welcome!

gav@pardontheeruption can be reached most days during the summer at Haliburton’s Lookout. Dreaming of a day.

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