Wandering as a Destination: March 2018

It’s hard to believe, but this spring will mark one year since officially launching the Come Wander brand to consumers. Since our May 2017 launch, we’ve not only seen incredible visitor engagement across our digital channels, but have also been thrilled with the level of brand support from tourism stakeholders.

We’ve established a brand message that is resonating with consumers and inspiring visitation, and it’s now more important than ever that we back this up by ensuring we offer incredible experiences to visitors in destination. Doing so will turn visitors into ambassadors for the region, help further leverage brand messaging, and inspire even more people to Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands.

In today’s competitive tourism market, it’s no longer sufficient to simply offer things to see and do – travellers are seeking more – authentic connections, memorable experiences, and opportunities for growth. They’re motivated to visit for a full destination experience. This is not just what one business can offer, but what we offer collectively; consistent messaging, a strong brand, quality tourism products, and incredible customer service. Strong destination experiences are created by strong and engaged communities.

Our tourism offerings and marketing efforts are intertwined and the success of each is impacted by the strength of the other. By putting the visitor first in our destination development, offering valuable experiences and products, improving our ability to satisfy visitor needs, and working together, we can ultimately support the Come Wander brand, and inspire new and return visitation.

Over the past year, this blog has featured ways to respond to visitor needs through our Come Wander marketing opportunities, so this month, we wanted to take time to highlight how we also support efforts around developing and continuously improving the Ontario’s Highlands’ destination experience. Here’s an overview of some of the programs we offer and more information can be found by clicking on the program titles:

  • OHvation – This mystery-shop program is a way to both see your business through the eyes of a perspective visitor, and to make a commitment to providing excellent customer service.
  • Tourism Development Partnership Program (TDPP) – This application based program is designed to encourage and support collaborative tourism development initiatives that reflect the Come Wander regional brand platform, that align with strategic objectives, and that can demonstrate long term benefits to the region. The 2018-2019 Program Guidelines are now available.
  • IGNITE – This immersive 3-day program was developed to directly answer the need to create and enhance visitor experiences, and offers participants the chance to hone in on their products and services to take their businesses to the next level. This April, a group of tourism stakeholders from Frontenac County, Lennox & Addington County, and Tweed will travel to an award-winning off-the-grid eco-lodge for this one-of-a-kind product development opportunity.

In addition to these programs, we also host events for tourism stakeholders that serve as opportunities to get together, unite around a cohesive regional plan and brand messaging, network, and explore potential partnership opportunities. Our main two events throughout the year are:

  • Spring Tourism Stakeholder Sessions – Each Spring, the OHTO team hits the road to host Tourism Stakeholder Sessions at various locations across Ontario’s Highlands. This year, our sessions will take place April 30 – May 3 and will focus on the importance of adopting a destination experience mindset, providing tools to implement this, and exploring next steps for how we can support visitors as they Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands. Please click here for a full list of dates and venues, and RSVP to join us at a session near you as we explore, “The Power of Place: How Nurturing Your Destination Experience Can Create Buzz and Drive Visitation
  • OH!Tourism Summit – Each year we look forward to bringing stakeholders together from across Ontario’s Highlands for our Annual Tourism Conference and AGM to learn tourism best practices, strengthen networks and partnerships, and offer cutting edge, industry equipping programming. Mark your calendars for this year’s event, taking place Monday, October 29 in Haliburton County!

The tourism sector will continue to be dynamic and the OHTO is proud of the innovative achievements being made throughout the region that demonstrate a visitor-first approach.

One recent example of an operator who put the visitor first is Temple’s Sugar Bush, a participant in last year’s Ignite Lanark County. New for this maple season, on weekends from March 1-April 29, Temple’s is offering a full buffet option. This change came about after receiving visitor feedback about the length of wait times and portion sizes. Listening to their visitors, Temple’s decided to change things up on these busy weekends to improve the value and quality of experience they are offering to visitors.

Sharing ideas and successes is a great way to motivate. If you have similar examples of how you put the visitor first, the OHTO team wants to hear them! Comment below, or send them to us at [email protected].

We look forward to continuing to work together to improve our destination experience, better meet the needs of our visitor, and inspire people to Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands.

Stephanie Hessel
Tourism Development Coordinator, OHTO