It was while working on a tourism project in Hastings County that OHTO board member, Tara McMurtry, first encountered OHTO. The project was for North Hastings Culture Days, a community event that involved more than 40 local artists and businesses joining forces to host its first Culture Days in September 2019.
The project was able to secure funding from Hastings County and OHTO and demonstrated how strategic partnerships can be a game changer for community events like Culture Days. At the time, her experience with tourism stemmed primarily from her Bancroft business, The Chocolate Harlot. This collaborative event began a journey into the greater tourism industry in Ontario’s Highlands.
“I didn’t have a great picture of tourism, I didn’t know about OHTO beyond my experience with Culture Days,” said Tara. “I was invited to be on the board, but I didn’t really have an on the ground sense of what that would mean.”
Tara aka The Chocolate Harlot is an artisanal chocolatier located in Bancroft who uses fair-trade, organic and decadent ingredients. while giving back to her community: 10% of proceeds from her chocolates are donated to community development projects in Hastings County. Linking tourism to community development is important to her vision of her work and the work of OHTO.
Since joining the board in 2019, Tara has been part of the team working to guide and direct the organization from a governance perspective. Tara likens being a board member to being a “guider” of OHTO’s direction and influencing the direction of program that OHTO delivers.
Being a board member for Tara has helped amplify her passion for community development. She sees a real role for tourism to play in assisting organizations and businesses to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular. Serving on the board has given her an opportunity to get a ‘bird’s eye view of tourism,’ something she considers to be important for anyone in any community.
“Being a board member allowed me to situate my concerns in the larger picture and be more effective with the right supports, which OHTO can provide,” Tara said.
The benefits go beyond that, Tara noted. She pointed to being able to hear the stories of how other businesses are approaching tourism, in order to have a better understanding of what is happening with her own business and in her own region.
One piece of advice Tara would have for a new board member is to get to know OHTO’s programs before joining, in order to have a strong understanding of the broadness of OHTO’s membership and region, and what a governance board can accomplish in that setting.
Interested in being on OHTO’s Board of Directors?
Share your vision for the future! OHTO’s Board of Directors is looking for energetic, positive and collaborative strategic thinkers to contribute to the growth of tourism in the region by volunteering to serve as a Director of the Board. Opportunities to fill vacancies are available to our members and interested individuals able to commit to a three-year term, are encouraged to click here for more information, or contact OHTO.
Submit your online application here.