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.
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 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.