Letter: Time Travel Is Possible! In Tobermory, That Is…


My family had guests come to visit Tobermory for the first time in 30 years and they unanimously remarked, “Wow! Not a thing has changed.” How is this possible? This letter is in response to the article on the “Special Council Meeting With Tourism Stakeholders”. We were rather disappointed with the content that was outlined in the meeting, as we fail to find it constructive.

As new full-time residents in Tobermory, we wonder why significant oversights are made with respect to how poorly adapted the area is in accommodating tourists. With the exception of a few businesses that have been renovated and demonstrate efforts to adapt to the increase in tourism, other amenities are in dire need of a revamp. That being said, the Foodland relocating to a larger building and more accessible location is a step in the right direction!

Why has the entire North Bruce Peninsula not evolved over the past decades and adapted to the tourism? A contrasting example is the Blue Mountains/Collingwood area. Centered around the ski hill, this community has continued to expand its offerings in goods and services, all the while maintaining a premium theme and thus, raking in the dollars. It began primarily as a seasonal destination and has since become a year-round revenue-generating machine. The municipal meeting seemed to revolve around the debate between maximizing tourism and “controlling” it and focused heavily on “traffic management issues”. Traffic concerns and lack of available parking are but surface issues that merely graze the underlying problem of a horribly maladapted infrastructure.

As for the obstacles of garbage, public defecation, illegal parking, etc, for the most part, people will use the prescribed services if they are made available. We will go out on a limb in assuming that 99% of people would choose to use a public toilet if they had the option. If they are not, this must indicate that there are not enough. Give the tourists what they need and there will be significantly less abuse of and haphazard behaviour in local spaces. Additionally, Councillor Myles’ statement that, “We need to focus on high value visitors,” and that, “…it turns out that cyclists spend more money…” is not only derogatory but also quite puzzling. A tourist dollar is a dollar, regardless of what class or cohort they belong to.

Furthermore, a great deal of attention is being placed on social media presence but again, attracting tourists is not the issue – satisfying them, without leaving local residents overwhelmed, is. The NBP is a golden egg-laying goose solely for its natural landscape. Why not capitalize on revenue-generating opportunities? The unfortunate reality is that both residents and tourists are being upset and disappointed, respectively. With the current amenities and systems in place, everyone loses. The solution, though challenging in its implementation, is simple in concept and frankly, is Business 101: adapt to demand and deliver. The fact that there was 25% tourist “turnaways” at the Grotto this year, cited in the tourism meeting, is an absolute waste.

The Bruce is an untapped gold mine of possibility and desperately needs an infusion of refreshing new ideas. The letter entitled, “We’ve Heard the Problems – We Need to Focus on Solutions”, by Deryn Harkness, was a refreshing redirection and placed the spotlight on some practical suggestions. How about taking a close look at the budgets, conducting our cost-benefit analyses, and re-prioritizing the initiatives in which to invest funds in order to maximize value for everyone. 

Here are more suggestions:

– Create a secondary “strip” or plaza that is NOT at the marina

– Make the downtown strip pedestrian-only and charge for parking elsewhere

– Relocate the LCBO off the main strip

– Create a sitting/dining pavilion near the strip

– Transform the Tobermory Community Center into public restrooms/showers and charge tourists for use of the facility

Finally, revitalize the selection of shops and businesses to include lucrative, practical, and premium goods and services. Instead of becoming fixated on surface issues, why not focus our resources on revitalizing the fundamentally flawed systems and infrastructure in place and we will all see significant changes in the future. 

If you build it, they will come.

Ruth and Dom Barton