Bringing Together Food and Drink Operators in Lanark County Success Story

In 2017 when it came to food and drink, Lanark County had a problem, and surprisingly that problem wasn’t a lack of food and drink operators. In fact, per capita there were more edible experiences available in Lanark County than in the neighbouring city of Ottawa.

Put simply, the region was a foodie dream come true. The problem was while there were plenty of offerings available for visitors, there was no centralized resource visitors could access to find them.

Enter the Sip & Savour Trail.

This partnership project was launched in 2017 by the Lanark County Tourism Association (LCTA), and involved a multi-year plan to bring together the food and drink operators in Lanark County under one umbrella. This partnership project began with a Tourism Development Partnership Project (TDPP) application, now known as theTourism Recovery and Innovation Project (TRIP) Partnership Projectsstream, to initiate a feasibility analysis to see if there was a need for a food and drink trail in the region.

“We wanted to provide value to members, and also respond to feedback from visitors who were looking for a food and drink experience,” said LCTA Vice-President, Jackie Kavanagh. “Food and drink is a huge draw to our region in part because we have a strong farm to table culture here, but also because we have had so many craft alcohol destinations open over the past several years.”

Next for the project was bringing together the tourism operators and garnering their buy-in and support for the project. Stakeholder sessions, information sharing, and countless phone calls and chats with business owners took place over several months, but in the end the effort was worth it.

“We were able to bring on board to the trail almost every food and drink business we had targeted. We had every brewery, two distilleries, two chocolateries, and multiple restaurants sign up right away, so we knew the trail would be robust,” said Kavanagh.

In total, the trail brought together nearly 40 tourism food and drink operators in Lanark County, representing every corner of the region, from Mississippi Mills to Perth, Carleton Place, Smiths Falls, and beyond. Funding was sought from the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) for three years in a row, to offset costs for everything from the feasibility analysis to the development of a marketing plan, a video, photography, branding, brochures, digital advertising, and finally on to full trail development.

To launch the trail, the LCTA first branded it, developed a website, a marketing plan, and launched a digital marketing campaign in the Ottawa area. The initial advertising at launch reached more than 500,000 on a limited budget, primarily through digital marketing. Three years later, the trail continues to provide value to the region for visitors and operators.

“The Sip & Savour Trail has been highly successful for our region, it created a landing place for visitors to be inspired to plan a visit here,” said Kavanagh. “The Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization has been there every step of the way, from conception to the final product supporting the initiative and helping us to build it even better.

About OHTO’s Partnership Projects

The Tourism Recovery and Innovation Program (TRIP) Partnership Projects (https://comewander.ca/trip) stream accepts applications for projects that strengthen the tourism sector and demonstrate consideration for the environmental, socio-cultural and economic impacts associated with growing the visitor economy. This program offers up to $15,000 financial support for collaborative projects that supports sustainable tourism.

For more information about this or any of OHTO’s partnership projects, please visit comewander.ca/programs. To apply for TRIP, please visit: comewander.ca/trip.

More Success Stories

Engage with Us! Join the OHTO Industry Facebook Community Group

As we’ve been communicating information about our upcoming OH! Tourism Summit, we’ve been thinking more and more about communications in general, because let’s face it, if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us nothing else it’s that we need to be able to communicate valuable information to tourism operators and municipal stakeholders as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In a perfect world, we would wave our magic wands and instantly share important information about time sensitive grants, events, and tourism programs that are relevant to our members. We want Ontario’s Highlands’ tourism operators to be the best informed in Ontario! (We’re a little competitive that way).

So, we’re making some changes. To establish meaningful and ongoing engagement with Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization’s (OHTO) membership, we’ve created an Industry Facebook Community Group, where we’ll share regular postings with valuable information that you need to know – and when you need to know it.

This will be a two-way street for communication, and you will be invited to share your own content, where appropriate. We want to hear what you have to say, as you share updates on your business, special offers, and events.

But don’t take our word for it, here are five more reasons why you will want to join our group (and not just because it’s where all the cool kids hang out).

1. We have plenty to share

It’s true – we really do have lots to share with you! We are constantly receiving information from TIAO, Destination Ontario, Destination Canada, and other groups that are trying their hardest to relay valuable information to tourism operators in Ontario. Don’t you want to be in the know?

2. Speed makes a difference

Sometimes speed counts. When there’s a grant that opens up that is first-come, first-served, how quickly it takes for you to hear about it means something. We consider it our responsibility to make sure you get the information you want for the services and programs you need, as quickly as possible.

3. You can share, too!

Do you have an event coming up? Share it with us! Do you have some information you’ve encountered about tourism in the region, or just something you want to share to inspire your fellow tourism folks? This can be your platform to be part of a community and learn more about other tourism offerings in your region. Check out the Group Rules to see when and where to share these sorts of posts in the Facebook Group.

4. Make connections

Why not get to know (virtually) some of your fellow tourism operators and community leaders from across Ontario’s Highlands? Find out what they’re thinking about and how they’re overcoming challenges in their region. This is a safe space to make those connections that can keep us inspired to do our very best. Remember that if two heads are better than one, then even more heads mean we can go further, faster, and have more fun doing it.

5. Because…COVID

Need we say more? COVID-19 has changed the landscape of tourism, and we need to be able to pivot harder and respond quicker to changes in the industry. Be part of the change and engage with us!

I’m sold – how do I join?

To join our group, click this link and click “Join Group.” We’ll approve your request and you’ll be instantly included in this communication channel. Welcome aboard!

Planning a Summit Experience Package with a Conscious Impact in Mind

By Ange Defosse, creator of Harlowe Green (www.harlowegreen.com)

A pyramid of branded pens. Lanyards made of plastic-y nylon in too-bold colours. Cheap water bottles and coffee cups that fall apart after a few rounds through the dishwasher. Stress balls that will end up dumped in the trash, or at best, tossed in a donation bin for someone else to discard later.

What do all of these things have in common?

They are incredibly common “gifts” you might be given on the conference scene as cheap branding opportunities that lack any kind of staying power.

The initial idea is they will be brought home and used as a reminder of your time at the conference. In reality, they don’t have much use in our lives and are quickly tossed. The impact of these plastic-heavy, waste-bound items is getting tougher to ignore.

There is something so truly impressive in the way that Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) wants to do it differently. To leave a different impression on its participants, to make it meaningful – and move away from the type of plastic waste that is going to exist in our gorgeous natural region for far too long.

The fact is, we can no longer ignore the plastic problems that plague our society; the climate change crisis that is looming in our future impacts us all. OHTO has taken some admirable progressive steps in their efforts to create a different sort of impact this year with experience kits that pair perfectly with the goals of the summit: getting the conversation started about how local businesses can consider and implement important changes in how we collectively leave a mark on the planet.

Planning in Partnership for the Planet

Harlowe Green and OHTO partnered to bring you this year’s OH! Tourism Summit experience kits, and to create an experience-based package for participants. Our goal in the package is to showcase just how heightened an experience can be when the positive impact and conscious effort behind the scenes is highlighted.

Within the pandemic, key new consumer values have emerged. Consumers are now looking for environmentally conscious, small shop sourced, and locally owned and based products that, if the host makes an effort to implement and share with the consumer, reaps rewards for their brand.

Taking the time to look into sourcing and ensuring your guests are aware of these steps taken and connections made can transfer the positive vibes you might enjoy from this year’s package to your own guest’s experiences.

Harlowe Green: Sustainable Options + Education

Over the last year and a half, Harlowe Green has evolved from a closet-sized refillery to a community, a storefront, an information sharing hub, and a boom of alternative goods for traditional plastic and far-away sourced items with hazy ethics and supply chains. The idea of a refill setup decreases the cost and packaging waste impacts for the consumer, so that better quality (and carefully made) goods can be acquired.

Essentially, massive jugs are used to refill smaller vessels or dispensers over and over, and the large jugs are refilled by the company, eliminating all of the single use plastic packaging waste. This refillery model has been paired with a selection of compostable, biodegradable and package-free options for the home and personal care.

Recently, our business has begun to support other businesses and organizations (like the OHTO) with setting up refillery-style options and more thoughtful goods to offer their patrons.

This spring, Harlowe Green began working with locally-based Cabinscape to adapt our refill model to their cabins in order to source more directly within the region and offer biodegradable, Canadian-made and package-free goods to their customers. Customers notice these details and have taken to social media and Cabinscape’s reviews to highlight their appreciation that this business is making positive changes and lessening their impact. Cabinscape informs their guests of this with an informational card in each cabin and via social media.

This Year’s OH! Tourism Summit Experience Packages

This year’s experience packages for the OH! Tourism Summit are fostered on those same goals: supporting local small businesses, decreasing the environmental footprint, and passing on a higher-level experience to the participant. OHTO carefully focused on the participant’s needs during the conference to support a lasting impression, even with the virtual format.

A single-origin chocolate from Fine Chocolate by Ludwig and a hand-foraged tea from the Algonquin Tea Company will provide a taste and scent experience, while supporting local businesses and recyclable or reusable packaging. The post-consumer waste notebook, sourced from Harlowe Green, considers the impacts that recent wildfires have had with a notebook made from fully recycled goods, while also providing an item of use during and beyond the summit.

Finally, the thought and intention of connecting and partnering with a local Indigenous artist, Chantel Chadwick (of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation), to fashion a meaningful piece that can spark an important cultural and social discussion on integrating local Indigenous wisdom into our worlds and businesses is exemplary. The sourcing of the materials has also been careful: many parts of the artistic piece have been sourced through the Algonquin Way Cultural Centre.

Beyond the inclusions for the kits, the packaging has been thoughtfully sourced through a small Ontario business, Wolf Pack Packaging. All exterior packaging is made of recycled, unbleached cardboard with zero plastic padding and is fully recyclable. See more about this excellent option in this Youtube video.

The idea of making changes to product sourcing may seem like just one more to-do on a growing list. However, we hope that the experience of this year’s OH! Tourism Summit Experience Package can have you thinking about how guests respond to and reflect on aspects of your experience-based business and its impacts when the environment and local community are considered.

And if you need a little help along the way, make sure to check out the Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization, or head on over to harlowegreen.com to see how we can help.

To register for this year’s OH! Tourism Summit, click here and to learn more about the event, click here.