Expand Your Knowledge with OHTO’s March Webinar Series

It’s hard to believe, but the winter is soon winding down and thoughts about the coming seasons are starting to drift into our minds. To help prepare your business or organization, we’ve lined up a series of webinars (10 if you can believe it!) covering a range of topics that will help different aspects of your operations and are sure to expand your knowledge.

As part of OHTO’s commitment to responsible tourism, we’ve brought together a solid team of facilitators to guide our tourism industry in various areas that are key to responsible tourism. And we will continue to offer similar opportunities and resources that will empower our industry toward creating a resilient and sustainable future.

Get to Know TIAO
Wednesday, March 2 | 10-11am

With special guest, Carol Greenwood, Vice President, Membership & Business Development at TIAO, hear about the many ways TIAO has been actively advocating for the industry and the many resources they have available. You’ll also get to learn about the membership benefits and the ways you can connect with TIAO for support. OHTO is a proud member of TIAO and we strongly encourage our members to become members too.

Ontario Staycation Tax Credit 101
Friday, March 4 | 10-11am

With special guest, Dr. Jessica Ng PhD., Director of Policy & Government Affairs at TIAO, to learn about the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit and what it means for tourism in the region. Have the opportunity to ask questions about the tax credit, what it means for your business and your guests, and how to take advantage of this opportunity.

Camp Tech: Small Business Websites 101
Tuesday, March 8 | 10-11:30am

There is a great deal to consider when you’re building a new website or redesigning an existing one. This beginner workshop covers everything you need to know, from choosing and registering a domain name, to building the website itself, to making sure it’s secure. Join facilitator Nicole Mickelow from Camp Tech and be in the know on small business websites.

Not 9 to 5: How to Improve Workplace Mental Health in Hospitality
Wednesday, March 9 | 1-2pm

Not 9 to 5 is an industry-specific nonprofit organization that acts as a resource for the hospitality and foodservice sector. Join special guest Hassel Aviles, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Not 9 to 5, to learn about the Not 9 to 5 organization, what they do and what you can do to improve workplace mental health support in your establishment.

Camp Tech: Social Media for Small Business
Tuesday, March 15 | 10-11:30am

Social media can be a very powerful tool for business growth, but first you need to know what it is and how it works. In this fun and interactive workshop, facilitator Kristy Guthrie from Camp Tech will look at the basics of today’s popular social media channels—including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest—and decide which are right for you. You’ll develop a social media plan that will drive business results without a big investment of time and energy.

GreenStep Solutions: Intro to the Business of Sustainability for Tourism Businesses
Wednesday, March 16 | 2-3:30pm

Join GreenStep’s Sustainable Tourism Team for this informative webinar to learn how your business, and the planet, can benefit from assessing your business’ sustainability performance. This webinar is for any business owner or manager who is interested in broadening their knowledge of sustainability while seeking ways to get started on their journey to improving their performance while reducing financial risk to their business.

Camp Tech: Digital Marketing on a Shoestring Budget
Tuesday, March 22 | 10-11:30am

You don’t need a big budget to get noticed on the web – you just need creativity! Savvy businesses are using bootstrap digital marketing techniques to amplify your message online. In this hands-on workshop, facilitator Tara Wilkins-McClune from Camp Temp will share with you the tricks and tools needed to market your business effectively on a shoestring budget.

Indigenous Cultural Awareness and Q&A
Wednesday, March 23 | 1-3pm

Join special guest, Aimee Bailey (Màmiwi Anishinàbikwe, Sturgeon Clan) from the Circle of Turtle Lodge, to learn a brief history of the Indigenous People of Canada, the History of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, a comparison of Indigenous & Western Values and the chance to develop your Land Acknowledgement Statement.

Camp Tech: eCommerce Options for Small Business
Tuesday, March 29 | 10-11:30am

It’s never been easier for small businesses to dip their toes into the world of ecommerce. Discover the fundamentals of selling online in this webinar overview of ecommerce choices available for beginners. Facilitator Dara Skolnick from Camp Tech will share with you the options for adding ecommerce functionality to an existing website, selling through a third-party marketplace, and building your whole website as an online store.

JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion) Leaders in Tourism
Wednesday, March 30 | 10-12pm

Through an interactive webinar with facilitator Farah Fancy, learn about what is meant by JEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, and how to become a leader in tourism. This session is ideal for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of DEI and is looking for the next steps in how to approach your business or organization from the perspective of DEI.

Have questions?

If you have any questions regarding this webinar series, please contact Kasey Rogerson at [email protected]

Frequently Asked Questions about the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit 

Ontario Staycation Tax Credit 

We’ve all heard the talk about the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit and the benefits it can bring by encouraging Ontarians to explore close to home this year. In early January 2022 Ontario officially introduced its new travel incentive program designed to encourage visitation at accommodations across the province.  

The new program provides incentives of up to 20 per cent in tax refunds for visitors’ accommodation expenses of up to $1,000 per person.

As tourism operators in Ontario’s Highlands, it’s important we understand exactly what this incentive means, and how we can market it to our best advantage. Naturally, people have questions, and here at the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization, we have the answers. 

Read on to find out everything you need to know about the tax credit and what it means for your business in 2022. 

What is the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit 

The Ontario Staycation Tax Credit was created to encourage Ontario families to explore the province and be part of the tourism and hospitality sectors’ recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The program provides a 20 per cent tax refund for accommodation expenses of up to $1,000 for an individual or $2,000 for spouse, common-law partner, or eligible children. That equates to a $200 tax credit for an individual or a $400 tax credit for a couple applied to your 2022 income tax return. 

The Ontario Staycation Tax Credit is a refundable personal income tax credit. This means this tax credit regardless of whether the claimant owes income tax for 2022. 

Who can claim the tax credit? 

Anyone who lived in Ontario on Dec. 31, 2021 qualifies for the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit. 

How can my business benefit? 

We suggest all businesses promote the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit to their customers, whether they are an accommodator or not. The reason for this is because if you encourage visitors to come and spend the night at a local accommodation, they are also likely to spend money at local restaurants, events, and experiences. It’s a win for everyone in the industry! And we like that.  

If you are an accommodator, we suggest you ensure customers staying with you will qualify for the tax credit by providing customers with a detailed receipt that includes the following: 

  • Your location 
  • The accommodation portion of a stay 
  • The GST/HST paid 
  • The date of stay 
  • The name of the payor 

What expenses qualify for the tax credit? 

The tax credit is available for accommodation expenses only. Eligible accommodations include overnight stays (for up to one month) in a hotel, bed and breakfast, lodge, resort, motel, or cottage or campground between Jan. 1, 2022 and Dec. 31, 2022.  

Please note the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit only applies to those accommodation charges where the amount of HST paid is itemized on the bill. 

How can people claim their tax credit? 

The staycation tax credit is claimed on an individual’s 2022 Personal Income Tax submission. Customers must keep receipts from their accommodation booking to submit with their taxes, or keep on hand in the event they are requested. Please note the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit only applies to those accommodations which charge HST and the HST must be itemized on the bill. 

What can I tell my customers and visitors about the tax credit? 

This program is brand new which means it’s a little confusing for customers. As an experience provider in Ontario’s Highlands, your task will be to help clear up some of the confusion and educate your customers about the program and how they can benefit.  

You can do this by the following: 

  1. Post about it on social media – refer customers to the provincial website here
  1. Include it in your newsletters – help spread the message! 
  1. Ensure your staff are informed about the program (particularly important for accommodators). Provide them with handouts if possible. 
  1. Refer customers to the story OHTO developed about the program, available here.  
  1. Partner with accommodations to share information with them and ask them to also refer business your way!  

Have more questions? Register for our Ontario Staycation Tax Credit 101 Webinar March 4

Register for OHTO’s Ontario Staycation Tax Credit 101 session with Dr. Jessica Ng from the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, and have all your questions answered. This session is on Friday, March 4 from 10 – 11 am. Registration details to come soon! 

Looking for more information? 

Visit the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit website for more details about the program and a Frequently Asked Questions section. You can also call the Ontario Budget Hotline at 1-800-337-7222. 

Take the Steps to Securing Your Social Media

You’ve worked hard on your social media pages. They’re a part of your branding, your means of communicating with your fan base, and your ticket to reaching new prospective customers. Having them disappear in a blink of an eye would be detrimental to your business. Are you taking the steps to secure your social media accounts from unwanted hacking attempts? Here are a few simple ways that won’t take much of your time, but could prevent a potential social media disaster.

1) Check your password strength

If you were in a rush when setting up your account and you ended up using a simple password that you vowed to change later (but never have), this is your reminder to use something difficult to guess. Avoid “Password123” and even the name of your pets or children. Instead, use a phrase that can’t easily be guessed. Your high school mascot’s name and your mom’s birth year, with some capitals and special characters thrown in? Nobody’s guessing that on a whim.

Here’s my method to creating a unique password:

Start with a word or two that has significance to you on a personal level, but not necessarily your business. A street you lived on 20 years ago is a good example. The street your business is on is probably not.

Add some numbers and special characters to make this password harder to guess. Yes, you can throw a 123! at the end of your password, but I like to incorporate my numbers and characters right into the phrase I chose. My password idea EdwinStreet has now become 3dw!nStr33t. It’s easier to remember than a string of random characters, because underneath it all, it’s just the name of a street I lived on.

The longer your password, the better. Aim for a minimum of eight characters but don’t be afraid to go longer.

2) Switch it up

It’s not just the strength of your password that helps, it’s also how often you change it. Get in to the habit of changing your password on a regular basis (like quarterly) and if you need to, write the new password down on paper and keep it somewhere in your home that nobody will stumble upon. If it helps you to remember your password, stick with a theme such as street names, characters from your favourite show, yoga poses, beer types, etc.

Lastly, it’s a habit of many of us to use the same password across all of our accounts. It may help ease any potential damage if you can keep a different password across your social media accounts. Here’s a simple trick. Let’s say I wanted to use k3rmitthefr0g as my password, but I want it to be different on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I might capitalize specific letters within the password that are unique to each channel, like so:

k3rmittheFr0g for Facebook
k3rmItthefr0g for Instagram
k3rmitThefr0g for Twitter

Not every word you use for your password root is going to contain these key letters, so unique adding letters or numbers to the end of the password is another option.

3) Opt in for two-factor authentication

One of the biggest steps you can easily take to securing your account is to enable two-factor authentication. On Instagram and Twitter, you can enable it using a number of options including a third-party app or cell phone number. Any attempts to login to your account, whether it’s you, a colleague, or a malicious attempt, will prompt a notification to whichever means you set up. For example, if you use your cell phone number, you or anyone else won’t be able to login until you get a verification code via text. If there’s a very slight inconvenience here, it’s 100% worth the trouble to add a layer of security to your account.

On Facebook, set up two-factor authentication on your personal account to provide that extra level of protection, and make sure anyone else who is an admin on your business page does the same.

4) Don’t fall for phishing

If you receive an email or message from someone who you don’t know, or from an account that is spoofing someone you do know (look closely at the sender’s email), do not click any links or open any attachments.

5) Audit your admins

It’s possible that you may not be the only person with access to your accounts, which is completely normal. On Instagram or Twitter you need a specific login to access a page, but Facebook is a bit different in that personal accounts can be granted access to a business page. Head into the settings every one in a while to make sure you don’t have any former employees or contractors set as admins. If they don’t use your page or are no longer tied to your business, remove them.

Additionally, make sure when you are sharing passwords with your colleagues, that you do it in a secure way. The most secure would be to do so orally or to write it down and give it to your colleagues in person. Avoid sending passwords over emails wherever possible.

Keeping up with your social media security does take a few extra steps and a very small amount of time on a seasonal basis, but it’s crucial to do what you can to prevent a hack. Stay safe and keep being social!

Get to Know: Amy Hogue, Content Specialist 

Amy is a familiar face in the tourism industry, especially in Lanark County where she currently lives with her husband on a farm just outside of Lanark.  Having started working with OHTO as a Local Wanderer in 2017, writing stories about local experiences in Lanark County, Amy has grown into the role of Content Specialist where she has left her mark in building the brand for the last three years. 

A storyteller at heart, Amy has strong roots in the region, having settled in Lanark County when her kids were young, and where she homeschooled them over the next 15 years.  During this time, she volunteered in the community coordinating local events while working as a freelance writer, writing stories for various magazines, publications, and local newspapers.   

It wasn’t long before she discovered she enjoyed writing for businesses more than writing cold, factual news. At the same time, she also discovered a love for tourism and the beneficial economic impacts it can have on local businesses.   

Her work in event planning allowed her love for tourism to blossom and, that, coupled with her skill for storytelling, encouraged her to create a travel blog as a way to communicate all the great regional experiences that people must experience.  At the same time, Amy also began working with the Lanark County Tourism Association, offering support to businesses and managing programs that drove tourism to the region.   

Amy’s deep-seeded passion for tourism has grown to developing content and tourism experiences that directly benefit business owners, and this is at the heart of the work she does with OHTO. 

After starting with OHTO, Amy at first assumed she was coming into another government organization buckled under red tape.  However, that myth was quickly demystified when she started working with the organization as a Local Wanderer and then as Content Specialist, where she discovered a creative, passionate group with grassroots energy.  

These are the types of organizations she’s passionate about working with – the ‘under-dog’ organization with (as always) not enough resources but big ideas.  She loves that the organization thinks outside-of-the-box and isn’t afraid to take chances, all for the betterment of Ontario’s Highlands as a destination. 

With OHTO, Amy appreciates the team environment.  She has always worked from home alone so it’s nice to be engrained with a team that has energy and excitement.  This team-focused atmosphere motivates her to work harder and to be more creative every day. 

Throughout the course of her career, Amy’s passion for tourism has deepened, mostly because she sees tourism as the backbone of any community that brings out the flavour and personality of the people who live there.  Tourism has the ability to support business owners and develop authentic experiences, all which help to shape and strengthen the community, providing growth for the future. 

Amy’s impact on tourism is evident both with OHTO, as well as on tourism as a whole in Lanark County.  With OHTO, she is excited to create stories highlighting so many businesses in the region, with these stories seeing success and resonating with the consumer.  They have contributed to great growth in the awareness level of Ontario’s Highlands as a region, especially with Amy’s creative flare and strategic thinking. 

On a Lanark County level, Amy was the driving force behind the development of the Sip & Savour Trail, with stakeholder engagement, product development, and marketing launch.  This is a project that she continues to take pride in.  Throughout the course of this program, she has seen constant wins, whether it be increases in website visits or increases in people to culinary businesses, all because the trail exists.  Seeing the impact of the trail on businesses in Lanark County is an accomplishment she is proud of to this day. 

Amy’s favourite thing about Ontario’s Highlands is the ample opportunities for every kind of outdoor adventure.  There are so many untouched places to explore, and loads of authentic experiences to discover along the way. 

Local insider tip?  When Amy travels, she always keeps an eye out for a location, whether it be a café, restaurant, or local shop, that sees a lot of local traffic.  If there are lots of cars out front, lots of local people – you know that’s a place to visit.  Trust locals’ recommendations! 

Connect with Amy

Operators and stakeholders are invited to connect with Amy to share news about their business and what’s happening in their community. Amy can be reached via email at [email protected].

Meet the Team: Sara Dunbrook, Digital Marketing Specialist

From a passion for truly excellent pizza to a natural love for the underdog, Digital Marketing Specialist Sara Dunbrook is in the perfect spot, professionally – working in a role that gives her an opportunity to advocate for businesses in a sometimes-underappreciated region that also happens to dish up really good pizza.

With a degree in communications and a background working in tourism, Sara was a natural fit for her role with Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO). One of her previous positions was working with the tourism brand itravel2000, where she was able to get an insider look at the tourism world.

And that’s all it took.

“I jumped at the opportunity to get back into travel and tourism, specifically running social media pages for something everyone really enjoys that brings happiness to people,” explained Sara.

For Sara, being able to support the lesser-known gems in the province is one of the key attractions to working in Ontario’s Highlands. Add in the opportunity to work for an organization that has the freedom to do things a little differently, and nearly four years later Sara is still committed to her role and the work she does here.

“I like that we stand out, that we’re one of the smaller, less populated areas in Ontario but we still do a lot on Instagram…we’re the fourth most followed Regional Tourism Organization out of 12,” said Sara. “We kind of do things differently here and try new things and do more things on a grassroots level.”

“That’s meant we have made some ripples in the Ontario tourism environment.”

Part of the appeal to her role in managing the digital channels for OHTO is the opportunity to interact with both visitors and locals alike. Given the vastness of the region, this gives her information about what living and visiting the region is like, and what’s going on in the communities here.

As someone who has been making the drive from Renfrew through Haliburton three or four times a year for the last decade, the appeal of the wide-open spaces, the large tracts of forested terrain, and the small communities that pepper in between is huge. As it happens, Sara is also an outdoor and sports enthusiast who spends a lot of time cycling the backroads of Ontario’s Highlands, and often vacations in the area.

Her insider tip (naturally) involves food (although not specifically pizza).

“Follow your taste buds, there are a lot of places to sit down for a meal or grab something quick. If your stomach says stop for ice cream, then stop for ice cream…you won’t regret it.”

Connect with Sara

Operators and stakeholders are invited to connect with Sara to learn about what digital marketing opportunities are available and how they can partner with OHTO. Sara can be reached at 613-629-6486 (1-855-629-OHTO) ext. 206 or via email at [email protected].

Become a Member: Be Part of the Tourism Conversation and Join the OHTO Community

We are not exaggerating when we say that 2022 will be the year for tourism in Ontario. Not only is there the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit to inspire provincial travel, but it’s also an understatement to say that people are more than ready to hit the road this summer.

To kick off what will surely be a stellar year for tourism operators and the industry as a whole, the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) is hosting a month-long member appreciation campaign in February. This is our chance to recognize existing members, make sure everyone is getting the most from their membership, and encourage others to join the club.

Throughout the month, we’ll be highlighting members in our Industry Facebook Page and through our Industry Twitter account, sharing their testimonials on what being a member of OHTO means to them. As part of the appreciation campaign, we’ll is also running a contest to recognize members who are committing to growing tourism in their region.

We hope you will see the value of membership and join us in celebrating each other’s successes and inspiring others. Read on to learn more about the benefits of membership, and how to enter the draw for a chance to win.

What OHTO Offers

When it comes to tourism, OHTO’s mandate is simple – to support a competitive tourism region through marketing, product and destination development. That may be a mouthful, but in reality, we are doing much more than that.

We are building a tourism community, one where we can all rely on one another to promote our mutual agenda: to create the very best, most successful, and vibrant tourism region in Ontario (yes, we are ambitious!).

When you become a member of OHTO there are so many ways you can benefit – access to timely, relevant information on grants and changes to industry guidelines for example, but there is so much more! When you engage with OHTO you may also benefit by being featured in OHTO content on the website or on social media and you have the opportunity to apply for regional funding and connect with like-minded stakeholders. Need we say more?

OHTO is here to help foster tourism in our region, and support you in your own efforts. If you are not already a member, please consider joining us. If you are a member, read on to see how you can get the most out of your membership.

Who Can Be a Member

This is an easy answer! If you are involved in the tourism industry in the Ontario’s Highlands region, you are eligible for OHTO membership. If you serve customers directly, through food and drink, retail, accommodations, or experiences, you are a tourism operator. It’s that simple.

Benefits of Membership

The benefits of membership are plentiful, but we’ll run down a list of the most important just to give you an idea of why you should join today.

  1. You’ll be among the first to hear of tourism related news, tips, and opportunities. That means you don’t have to stress about when a provincial or federal grant opens, we will do the stressing for you and then share the info with you (and then remind you about it later).
  2. You will have the opportunity to expand your skills in your industry, to create product and experiences with knowledge gained from OHTO.
  3. You will be able to vote at the annual OHTO AGM to ensure your voice is heard.
  4. You will be able to forge new partnerships and connections with other operators, and take advantage of OHTO partnership development projects.

As if that list isn’t enough, we have one more for you: it’s FREE!

Plus, as a member you will also be on the cutting edge of trends in tourism as OHTO continues its journey of a more responsible tourism approach to tourism in the region and shares resources and opportunities that can help your business be more responsible too

This means we will be working collaboratively with our partners in tourism to support an approach that will actively engage our thriving industry and build a stronger, resilient future for our communities.

How to Become a Member

To become a member, simply subscribe to the OHTO emailing list for our Highlands Highlight newsletter. You can do that right now, here.

We told you it would be easy!

Okay, I’m a Member, Now What?

If you’re a member, congratulations, you’ve taken the first step in connecting with the tourism community and growing your business. Now let’s make sure you are getting the most out of your membership with us. You do your part, and we will do ours (promise).

New (or existing) member to-do list:

  • Read the monthly Highlands Highlight newsletter to be informed on what’s happening in the region, including funding opportunities and fun, new experiences.
  • Join the OHTO Industry Facebook Community Group to get information about tourism fast – and also just to chat with other operators and hear their stories.
  • Respond to the Monthly Guiding Question (which is distributed in the newsletter and posted on the Industry Facebook Community Group).
  • Use the hashtag #ComeWander on Instagram and Twitter so we see your posts – and all the fantastic things you are doing with your business – so that we can share that, too.
  • Like and follow our social media pages, including the industry Twitter account (@ohtoinsider).
  • Attend the annual OH! Tourism Summit to rub elbows with the movers and shakers in the tourism world, and see what awesome things have been happening in our region over the past year.
  • Enter the Member Appreciation February draw for a chance to win one of two great prizes (see below).

OHTO’s Member Appreciation February Contest – NOW CLOSED

Once you’ve registered and completed the checklist above, you will officially be a member and ready to reap the rewards of committing to tourism. One way you can benefit right away is to enter the draw OHTO will be running during the month of February as part of our Member Appreciation campaign, where new and existing members will have a chance of winning one of two prize options.

There is one draw for current members and a separate draw for new members.

What’s up for grabs? Winners get to choose:

Prize #1: An overnight getaway package, including dinner and an experience, at Somewhere Inn Calabogie.

Prize #2: An overnight getaway package, including dinner and an experience, at Bonnie View Inn.

*Both prize options are valued at $500 each.

How to enter as a CURRENT member of OHTO:

  1. Simply answer our question, “Share with us one way being a member of OHTO has benefited your business” on our online form to gain one entry into the contest. Submit your answer here.
  2. Refer a friend to gain extra entries. For every new member who subscribes with OHTO and gives your name for the referral, you get an extra entry! And there is no limit to how many extra entries you get.

How to enter as a NEW member:

  1. It’s easy! Simply subscribe to our OHTO Highlands Highlight newsletter and you are entered. Become a member today and subscribe here. And if a current member refers you, make sure to add their name and business in the form too!

This contest is now closed. We thank all our members who participated and welcome the many new faces who’ve joined OHTO as new members.