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Tourism Development

As a four-season destination, Barrie relies on tourism as an important economic driver. Having recognized the city as a growth area, City of Barrie Council made supporting tourism growth a priority in the City’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan.

The numbers help tell the story of its importance: in 2019, over 2 million domestic visitors contributed $300 million to the local economy(1) and supported over 8,000 jobs in Barrie.(2) An additional 85,000 international visitors came to the Barrie area, spending almost $36-million.(3)

Emerging from the pandemic, early signs of recovery are evident and show a desire for visitors to return to Barrie and embrace all that it has to offer.

Tourism Master Plan

In November 2020, City Council approved the findings and recommendations of the Tourism Master Plan (TMP), following 18 months of research and consultations with over 80 key stakeholders. The TMP identified 30 strategic recommendationsincluding the following:

  • Incorporate a tourism point of view when considering new development, wayfinding, parking and downtown revitalization;
  • Invest the Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) revenue in supporting tourism sector development;
  • Develop a specific sport tourism strategy;
  • Invest in and/or facilitate further development of year-round outdoor assets, profiling outdoor experiences that go beyond the waterfront;
  • Support and invest in visitor-focused arts, cultural and live events;
  • Engage citizens of Barrie to help tell Barrie's story to visitors.

Tourism Master Plan Projects

Since Council's approval of the TMP, the following projects are underway:

  • Wayfinding Strategy – Working with community partners Tourism Barrie and the Downtown Barrie BIA and with engagement from local residents and businesses, the City of Barrie is working to improve the city's wayfinding system, which includes signage and similar directional tools that help residents and visitors identify where they are, find what they are looking for, and confirm they have arrived at their desired destination.

Community Benefits of Tourism

A healthy tourism economy supports a community and its residents in numerous ways. Hotels, restaurants, retail shops, taxi drivers, artist studios, resorts, festivals, tour companies, rental providers – they all benefit from a healthy tourism economy.

Ultimately, a successfully implemented tourism plan results in more people becoming aware of and attracted to the city, increasing the draw of permanent residents. Done strategically, attracting tourists that are aligned with our local talent needs turns the visitor of today into the employee or investor of tomorrow.

Other ways tourism benefits Barrie's residents include:

  • Spin-off investments by the private sector resulting from City investments can add to the economic strength of the community including additional hotels, restaurants, retail, and entertainment operations.
  • The City can expect a return on investment in the form of business and property tax revenues, which helps fund services.
  • The citizens of Barrie also benefit by way of improved and new infrastructure, new businesses, and new activities and services.

Tourism Development

The Tourism Development portfolio of Invest Barrie applies the strategic tourism lens across internal functions at the City, including arts and culture development, special events, recreation, parking, communications, planning, and parks, and aligns with the City's Official Plan.

Balancing Residents' and Tourists' Needs

A healthy and sustainable tourism program is one that addresses the long-term health of the community, beginning with its residents. Public consultations and community engagement are used to understand and incorporate those needs into decision-making.

Frequently Asked Questions
I have an idea for a tourism business in Barrie. Who do I contact?

Contact Robb MacDonald, Tourism Development Coordinator at or (705) 739-4220 ext 5184

Who does the City work with on tourism-related projects?

The City works closely with Tourism Barrie, the Downtown Barrie BIA, Tourism Simcoe County, the Regional Tourism Organization (RTO7), and other local and regional partners

What/who is Tourism Barrie and how do they work with the City?

Tourism Barrie is the a Destination Marketing and Management Organization and tourist office for the City of Barrie. It works in partnership with the City to build a vibrant, year-round visitor economy that contributes economic value to Barrie.

Tourism Barrie is a not-for-profit organization governed by an elected Board of Directors and City of Barrie Councillor Representative. It provides free year-round visitor information services and curates and executies authentic experiential stories about Barrie to entice visitors to stay overnight, explore the community, and meet its people.

(1)Statistics Canada. 2022. Special Tabulation, based on National Travel Survey: All Quarters 2019 for Census Sub-Division of Barrie. The National Travel Survey (NTS) is a voluntary monthly survey on domestic travel and tourism.

(2)OMAFRA. 2021. EMSI Report: Regional Requirements (Barrie).

(3)Statistics Canada. 2022. Special Tabulation, based on Visitor Travel Survey: All Quarters 2019 for Barrie CMA. The Barrie CMA (Census Metropolitan Area) includes the city of Barrie, the town of Innisfil and the township of Springwater. The Visitor Travel Survey (VTS) provides travel and spending information on visitors to Canada from the United States and overseas. Because of the pandemic, VTS data collection was suspended in March 2020.

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