Discover Burlington Ontario

Tourism Burlington Celebrates 50 years

by Pam Belgrade

2020 is not only a new decade with exciting developments related to tourism but it is also the 50th anniversary of Tourism Burlington’s visitor information centre.

The first visitor information centre came into being when a refreshment shack from Mountainside Park was delivered to Spencer Smith Park by the City Parks & Recreation Department. With some elbow grease, painting, installation of a sign and telephone, “the shack” was opened on July 10, 1970 with a ribbon cutting. The Chamber of Commerce was responsible for conducting daily operations of this centre during the summer and they hired travel counselors to respond to visitor inquiries.cheque presentation clip from burlington post for visitor information centre

Over the next three years, the centre saw more visitors and in 1973 it became apparent additional space was needed. A building on top of the Mohawk Canoe Club was erected and became the new visitor centre and Chamber office. The facility included a meeting room, visitors counter, washrooms, and refreshment area by the lake side. The service continued until 1985, when the Chamber indicated they no longer had the capacity to support the visitor service operation and the city established a Burlington Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB).  The BVCB selected citizen appointees and city council representatives, who in turn engaged an Executive Director and office assistance.

tourism information centre in 1980s at spencer smith park1985-86 also brought hotel growth to the city with the opening of the Venture Inn (now Waterfront Hotel), Admiral Inn and Relax Inn (Comfort Inn).  To support this growth, the BVCB expanded beyond offering visitor information to marketing the destination by coordinating an annual visitor guide, plus conference and group tour packages.

The nineties and into the early 2000’s brought more hospitality venues, expanded local attractions and the development of various festivals and events all bringing more visitors to Burlington.  Studies were undertaken to determine economic impact of tourism and a visioning session took place.  Marketing expanded including the creation of a website and collaboration with the city on an events calendar.

helping visitors in the visitor centreIn 2003 the Tourism centre re-located to the Team Burlington building at 414 Locust Street after the original centre was demolished to accommodate Spencer Smith Park improvements. The new Tourism location opening officially took place in July 2003.

Tourism Fast Facts

  • 1.4 m visitors/yr to Burlington
  • 1108 hotel rooms (10 properties) – this will grow by 258 rooms in 2020-21
  • 4.7M visits to local attractions (residents/visitors) – RBG, Conservation Halton, Museum, Bronte Creek (2018)
  • 711 Tourism Businesses
  • 6,200 Tourism JobsOver the past 50 years, Tourism Burlington has continued to adapt and grow to support the local tourism industry. We encourage residents of Burlington and visitors to stop in to our visitor centre to pick up guides, maps, and information about exciting activities and events happening in Burlington and Ontario  or visit our website or social media channels.

There were a number of celebrations planned for the spring and summer which have been put on hold due to COVID-19.  We hope to celebrate this milestone in the fall.  More details will be provided as events get closer so check our social channels, blogs and Enewsletters for information.

If you have interesting facts or stories about Tourism Burlington, leave us a comment below.

Information in this blog was provided in part by Laurie Branch, former Director of Parks & Recreation with the City of Burlington, interim Executive Director of Tourism Burlington in 1990-91 and long time centre volunteer.

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