‘An equitable partner’: Lanark County to take second look at tourism agreement with Smiths Falls

Lanark County staff will revisit its proposed tourism agreement with Smiths Falls after councillors questioned the $5,000 annual fee. Some councillors suggested a more equitable fee considering the tourism budget of $200,000.

A draft agreement between Lanark County and the Town of Smiths Falls for tourism marketing has met with some hiccups.

Lanark County Tourism has been exploring partnership opportunities to promote tourism more effectively in the county, and the Town of Smiths Falls has already agreed to pay $5,000 to the county for a seat at their marketing table. (Read more on the Smiths Falls agreement here.)

County council has yet to agree, saying they need more information as to how that figure was reached. Is $5,000 equitable in a $200,000 budget between eight municipalities? That’s what Coun. Toby Randell (Carleton Place Mayor) asked.

Vanessa Dow, tourism, and corporate relations coordinator with the county, said Smiths Falls tourism attractions are often not included in the county’s marketing and promotion and a formal agreement would solidify the partnership and strengthen regional tourism marketing efforts.

“Smiths Falls has assets that are unique within Lanark County and the inclusion of these assets in our marketing campaigns will make Lanark County a more desirable destination,” Dow said.

Most visitors to the area are not aware that Smiths Falls is a separate town, Dow said. “Visitors plan stays around local attractions and events, so being able to include Smiths Falls in our marketing has the potential to increase visits throughout the county.”

Dow said the $5,000 reflects the amount of time spent on the Smiths Falls work.

There are portions of the tourism budget that don’t affect Smiths Falls — they don’t take part in the municipal tourism initiatives, nor the county branding.

“I think this is reflective of the amount of work we’ll be doing toward the town,” Dow said.

Coun. Richard Kidd (Beckwith Reeve), who chaired the meeting, said some justification for that dollar figure is needed. “If Beckwith can get the same deal, I’ll sign one too. It’s good to get a deal but $5,000 doesn’t seem like the right dollar figure.”

Dow said she could report back to council on how that number was achieved.

Coun. Brian Dowdall, (Beckwith Deputy Reeve), asked what types of things would be in the tourism agreement.

Dow said the agreement “would allow Smiths Falls’ attractions and businesses to be included in various promotions that are done through marketing and experience development … as well as including them on the website and (in) our social media promotions.”

Coun. Christa Lowry (Mississippi Mills Mayor) said she’d like to have a more detailed report without “getting into the weeds” of the agreement, “just to get a sense of what this is compared to what is already occurring … I need to understand more thoroughly what the inclusions would be.”

Randell said including Smiths Falls in their tourism marketing “is a benefit to all of us … having them be an equitable partner in our tourism makes sense to me.”

Randell wanted to get the numbers put into perspective: “I’d love for them to be there; I just want them to be an equitable partner … I look forward to more fulsome information on that side of it at the next meeting.”

The motion to refer back to staff was unanimously supported. It will return to county council on Feb. 28.

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