In 2016 Brockville had the opportunity to participate in a community exchange program. The ‘First Impressions’ program paired Brockville with Pembroke, a similarly sized community, where representatives from each city would visit the other and report back on areas that they felt were successful and appealing, as well as pointing out areas of improvement.
During the summer months, these “secret shoppers” from Pembroke visited Brockville and compiled their notes from a number of categories and sectors including: community entrances, downtown appearance, businesses and services, housing and residential areas, local government services, public infrastructure, tourism, education, health, social and emergency services, industry, entertainment and recreation, culture and heritage, and environmental sustainability.
After finalizing their report, Pembroke presented their findings to Brockville stakeholders at the Aquatarium in January.
In the tourism sector, the report found that we are doing well in the following areas:
- planning stages: websites were helpful (including tourism, city and dbia sites); social media was active and helpful
- tourism staff were very helpful and knowledgeable
- great community brochures an maps were available at both the tourism office and city hall
- the visitor guide laid out the highlights for the town
- tourism marketing done very well
- good volume of businesses related to the tourism sector – cruises, dive centre, Aquatarium, museum tours, ghost walks
- good information listed about available accommodations
- welcoming, clean, historical, beautiful
- lots of foot traffic downtown
- historical elements are very visible and appealing, and the buildings are well-kept
- beautiful waterfront and green space with well-established parks
- excellent customer service – owners love Brockville and help to promote other businesses
- plenty of beautiful parks and trails on the waterfront and the Brock Trail could be used for both walkers and cyclists
- Heritage building plaques and story plaques well liked (consistent format and provide great historical info)
- Railway tunnel restoration is noted as a great project
- Square is a beautiful focal point with important heritage buildings
Areas where we could improve:
- Brockville entrance signs, while nice, are dark and hard to read
- opportunity for a waterfront hotel, and more accommodations downtown
- add additional signage to promote attractions
- add cycling lanes or sharrows to the downtown core, connect with the waterfront trail
- better signage for availability of parking lots and free parking
- public washrooms are not evident
- street fixtures and benches could use repainting or updating (in the works)
- the location of the tourism office does not stand out on foot, and was not felt to be in a prime location
- no community slogan or brand evident
- opportunity to turn locals into brand ambassadors for the Aquatarium and other attractions
- not much evident in the way of public art
- suggested making heritage more evident online
Some of these suggestions we have started to work on right away, and the insight we have gained from fresh pairs of eyes will help us all push forward as a community and do even more to become a welcoming, tourist-friendly city.
If you would like to view the full presentation, you can download a copy of the First Impressions Report here.