What’s in a name? Quite a bit when it comes to tourism.
If you can’t find a place on the map, it’s hard to spend money there. And that was at the crux of the issue when Orillia city councillors decided to create a municipal accommodation tax (MAT) earlier this year.
In conjunction with that decision, they also voted to designate Ontario’s Lake Country (OLC) as the city’s tourism entity; this was a requirement of the legislation. As such, the local destination marketing organization will receive half of the estimated $436,000 that will be collected annually through the MAT.
In addition, OLC will co-ordinate the collection and remission of the new tax and will receive 2.5% of the gross revenue, or about $11,000, for that responsibility.
But during the debate about the issue, Coun. Ralph Cipolla said he thought council should ask the entity to change its name and include Orillia in its moniker.
He referenced a regional conference he attended, noting “nobody knew where Ontario’s Lake Country was. My concern here is that somehow we have to get Orillia in there.”
Ultimately, a majority of council voted not to demand a name change, but to suggest the tourism group’s board consider the possibility.
They did just that, agreeing, in principle, to the idea at a Sept. 30 board meeting.
Then, the board’s marketing sub-committee went to work, talking to regional tourism groups such as RTO7 and Simcoe County Tourism, while also getting feedback from the municipalities it serves: Severn, Ramara, Oro-Medonte and Rama First Nation.
The sub-committee suggested the organization change its name to Orillia and Lake Country Tourism - an idea the board heartily supported at its recent meeting.
“It was a very transparent process,” said Kris Puhvel, executive director of OLC.
He said since he joined the organization 18 months ago, he thought it might be prudent to improve the name to add a “geographic anchor.”
He loves the new name because “Lake Country, as a brand, is strong. It’s a place you want to go. There is a romanticism to the brand. Adding Orillia gives it a geographic anchor. Most people know where Orillia is.”
He stressed only the name is changing; there will still be a regional, co-ordinated approach to marketing the area.
“It’s a strong organization and this will only make it stronger,” said Puhvel.
Orillia’s manager of tourism agrees.
“From a tourism marketing standpoint, this is a really big deal,” said Michael Ladouceur, noting there’s been a debate about the organization’s name for a decade.
He said the new name will “really help our messaging and the marketing we’re doing in Toronto, across the country, in the U.S. Most people recognize Orillia and they know where it is.”
Ladouceur said the city is “looking forward to working with the other townships under this new name. There is strength in numbers and … we’re looking forward to having the new name to catapult us forward.”
City council voted to approve the new MAT in August, with an implementation date of April 1, 2020. The new tax will add 4% to every night’s stay in a hotel, bed and breakfast or air bnb in the city.
The city will invest 60% of their share of the proceeds (expected to be $210,000 annually) to enhance tourism, while putting the remaining 40% into a tourism reserve fund.
The MAT will start being collected in April. That will also be when the new name change for OLC will officially happen. In the meantime, a new logo will be developed and the website and social media accounts will be updated to reflect the change.