Old Town Kemptville BIA Executive Director, Deron Johnston, would like municipal council to designate the downtown area as a tourism destination. Deron believes that a tourism designation would help with economic development in the downtown. The biggest benefit to businesses would be the ability to remain open during statutory holidays, when more people are drawn to the area.
Other than allowing businesses the option to remain open, the designation would be a symbol that the downtown is the place to visit. It is already the focus of many community events, like the Santa Clause Parade and the Canada Day festivities, and Deron believes that a tourism designation would make the downtown the official spot for the community to gather and welcome people from out of town. “Why don’t we think of ourselves as a tourism destination, when we have a million people just down the highway?” Deron says. “We’ve got to tell people there are things worth seeing and doing.”
When he held the round table for Eastern Ontario BIAs in North Grenville last December, Deron gave the group a tour of the downtown. Many were impressed with everything that Kemptville has in its downtown core, including Riverside Park with all its recreation facilities. “Everyone who came here were ooh-ing and ah-ing about our downtown,” Deron says. “It was refreshing to hear about all the wonderful things people see we have as assets.”
The footprint for the tourism designation should reach further than the Old Town Kemptville BIA, he says, and include the Kemptville Campus, which already draws thousands of people to the area for Kemptville Live every year. It should also include Prescott Street from the Campus to Clothier Street, as well as the Rideau-Sanders triangle. He believes that branding the downtown as a tourist destination will not only attract people, but also new businesses.
“If you create a destination for people, businesses will be more likely to see it as a good investment.”
Council recently received a grant of $20,000 from the provincial government to help fund the creation of a tourism strategy for North Grenville. Deron thinks this would be the perfect opportunity to put a focus on the downtown, and have it featured as the tourism destination in the municipality.
The Old Town Kemptville BIA Board has asked Deron to bring the idea back to their August meeting. He hopes to be able to make a presenta- tion to council, requesting the tourism designation for downtown, before the end of the Summer.