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The New Reality for Municipalities: Issues in Tourism, Leisure and Culture

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Cultural, sports and tourism organizations have been hard hit by the pandemic. With locals and visitors having to completely change their habits, existing business models and financial frameworks have been upended.

In past few months, municipalities have been working hard to develop economic reopening plans. And it’s interesting to see how certain issues emerge time and again in these plans, such as: downtown centres, buy-local initiatives, cultural and sports scene vitality, green spaces and mobility (public transit and active transportation).

Municipalities have played a key role in managing the crisis. Based on our recent observations, we believe that municipal leadership will be just as important for the reopening phase.

The four pillars of municipal vitality

Everybody recognizes that municipalities play an important role in ensuring the provision of basic services, like public safety, roads, water and sewage systems, etc. Increasingly, however, individual citizens and businesses expect municipalities to actively lead projects aimed at making communities more dynamic, with a focus on four key areas:

  1. Cultural infrastructure and vitality: Libraries, theatres, cultural venues, etc.
  2. Dynamic downtown centres and economic development: Prospecting, commercial vitality, entertainment, urban beautification, placemaking, etc.
  3. Sports and recreation infrastructure and vitality: Green spaces, outdoor sports facilities, arenas, swimming pools, bike paths, parks, etc.
  4. Tourism appeal: Attractions, museums, festivals, conventions, accommodation, etc.

Interesting, distinctive municipalities are those that develop a clear vision and strategies for each of these pillars and that implement major initiatives to develop all four areas. The ability of municipalities to attract visitors, new residents and businesses depends on these pillars.

Capitalizing on the reopening to boost community vitality

Many organizations in these sectors are facing hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis. There’s a high risk that they could lose their assets and see years of hard work slip away in just a few months. Municipalities have tough decisions to make in terms of which assets are worth saving and how much support they can offer to those identified as top priorities.

But the crisis also presents an opportunity to shake things up and orchestrate transformations that might have otherwise taken years to get off the ground.

This is where things get complicated for municipal decision makers and local cultural, sports and tourism groups. Since there’s no established roadmap for Phase 2, they’re being forced to define a new approach in record time. In this context, business reopening plans must be based on fast yet detailed impact and opportunity assessments, as well as on innovation and agility.

Considerations for maximizing business reopening and financing opportunities

  • Looking at demographic data, will local cultural and sports infrastructures meet the community’s needs once the crisis is over?
  • Are there sports, culture or tourism organizations that could merge or pool their services to improve efficiency?
  • Which tourist attractions and events support the municipality’s values and image? Which ones need to be refreshed with an updated vision and entertainment agenda?
  • Does the municipal policy for supporting organizations suit today’s needs and reflect new approaches implemented since the pandemic began?
  • Given the impact of the crisis on retailers and restaurants, what features will define the downtown area and attract people to the city core?

In the coming months, we can expect governments to unveil various financing programs (for infrastructure, optimization, innovation, technology, etc.) aimed at stimulating the economy. If municipalities and cultural, sports and tourism organizations want to get their share of available financing, they have to be ready with detailed plans.

Our team of experts specializing in tourism, leisure and culture can help you define your strategy. Contact us now.

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