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.

September 2021: Connect with Tourism at Ontario’s Highlands’ OH! Tourism Summit and AGM

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others. – African Proverb

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us nothing else, it’s that connections are important. Connections to people. Connections to the land. Connections to our community. There are so many quotes that talk about how we are all stronger when we foster those important connections.

The connections in our lives sustain us; they provide us with a reason for being, they ground us in place, in time, and in our community.

Helen Keller said it so beautifully: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

It’s the discussion of connections and all that they have brought to us in the past year and a half that led us to settle on the theme of connections for this year’s OH! Tourism Summit and Annual General Meeting (AGM). This event is a chance to not only make connections with other tourism leaders and stakeholders in your community, but also to learn more about OHTO’s ongoing Connections campaign and our journey towards responsible tourism.

Join us on Wednesday, October 20 for a virtual three-hour conference to explore what our connections are through responsible tourism – to ourselves, to our community, and to our region. This year’s event is completely free to attend! A Zoom link will be sent to registrants prior to the event.

The theme of connections will be evident in every aspect of this year’s program, from the keynote speaker, Dr. Johnathon Day, an expert in sustainable tourism and responsible travel, to a live authentic Indigenous experience with Chantel Chadwick, along with a mindful moment from Creekside Yoga.

New this year is the OH! Tourism Summit Experience Package (exciting!). Participants who register by Friday, Oct. 8 will receive an exclusive “Experience Package” packed with lots of fun stuff you’ll be able to use during the event itself.

This year’s event will answer questions like how can we use connections to create a better tourism experience? What role does responsible tourism play in an enlightened tourism community? And come to that, what exactly is responsible tourism, anyway?

Find out the answers to these questions, and more, at the OH! Tourism Summit and AGM on Oct. 20. Come join the thought leaders in tourism in Ontario from Ontario’s Highlands’ regions of the Ottawa Valley, Lanark County, Haliburton County, Hastings County, Frontenac County, and Lennox & Addington and be in the know for what’s coming in tourism in 2022.

This is a chance to be inspired – and to inspire! Let’s work together to grow tourism in Ontario’s Highlands. Visit www.comewander.ca/oh-tourism-summit for more information about the event and if you’re ready to register, click here.

We’ll ‘connect’ with you all on Wednesday, Oct. 20!

Yours in tourism,

Kasey Rogerson
Industry Support Coordinator

Hastings County: A Tourism Recovery and Innovation Program Success Story

In Hastings County, the famous line from the movie Field of Dreams has extra meaning: If you build it, they will come. The idea is that if you build and develop purchasable tourism experiences, then visitors will follow. Long debated in the tourism world, this is a concept that is no longer theoretical, thanks to a recent Tourism Recovery and Innovation Program (TRIP) Partnerships Project in Hastings County.

It isn’t often that a community is able to come together to ignite their collective curiosity and drive concrete progress and discoveries. In Hastings County, a project that began with the Ignite program in 2019 with 17 operators and two staff members has led to the prioritization of experiential tourism development in the region, and the development of experiences that will attract visitors now and in the future.

Hasting County’s 2021 TRIP project built on the foundations created by the Ignite program, with a goal of realizing the development of enhanced experiences in the region – namely, Experiential Tourism Development through e-training for local operators.

Through this project, Hastings County hoped to develop a sustainable training experience that could be repeated in future. Andrew Redden, Economic Development & Tourism Manager for Hastings County, explained the project fit with the priority of facilitating the development of more tourism experiences within Hastings County.

“The workshop was a kickstart to achieving our goal of creating more purchasable experiences,” said Andrew. “It created some great connections and connections with local businesses, and we have seen some great experiences implemented as a result.”

In 2021, 11 tourism operators in Hastings County took part in the training, with a goal of creating six new or enhanced experiences within one year of the program. Participating tourism operators included tourism experience operators like Tweed & Company Theatre, Kingsmill Cider, Potter Settlement Winery, The Barn Chefs, among others.

“Some of the businesses that took part are champions in the tourism community, and capable of achieving wonderful things,” said Andrew.

While time will tell how many experiences are developed in response to the training, there is one easily notable success story: Kings Mill Cider. Cidery owner, Margaret Van Helvoort, explained the many benefits the program had on their business, and the ways in which it sparked inspiration for exciting future projects.

“Thanks to the program, Kings Mill Cider was able to make an amazing partnership connection with the Stirling Festival Theatre and in August we hosted the first annual Busker Festival together…it turned out splendidly,” said Margaret.

Margaret noted the opportunity to make connections with other operators was a benefit f the experience. The exercises they took part in were unique – one exercise involved planting and caring for seeds and seedlings which showed how important an attention to detail and follow up can be. Margaret added the other exercises were “invigorating, refreshing, and grounding.”

A follow up meeting is planned for October to learn more about what experiences were developed in consequence to the training, and with new experiences forthcoming, Andrew is optimistic about Hastings County’s role of promoting tourism development.

“If we can work with operators to encourage them to create a purchasable experience, we can assist with the promotion,” said Andrew.

This project is an example of how partnership projects can benefit the community and tourism operators simultaneously. Andrew recommends anyone with an idea for how to grow tourism to consider partnering with Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization.

“Ontario’s Highlands has always been very approachable,” said Andrew. “Whether it’s a small municipality, a tourism operator or organization I would encourage them to give staff a call and ask them for thoughts of how they can navigate through some challenges of the industry.”

More Success Stories:

Meet the 2020-21 OHTO Board of Directors

The Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) has been making a name for itself over the past decade, supporting tourism in the region through creative content marketing and helping tourism operators to prioritize and focus on the right communications to capture their audiences.

Of course, whenever there are great things being accomplished there are usually great people in the background guiding the direction of the organization. At OHTO, those people are the OHTO board of directors – eight people who dedicate their time and energy to guiding OHTO’s tourism growth and direction now and in the future.

These are the tourism operators or the municipal or county staff who live and work in your communities, all of whom are doing their best to support tourism and growth in Ontario’s Highlands. These dedicated folks meet once a month to discuss the challenges that face the industry in Ontario and the rapidly evolving tourism landscape. As a governance board, the board oversees and guides the big picture strategy and policies for OHTO.

These are the people working for you, behind the scenes. Take a moment to read their stories and why they find value in serving on the board of directors, and what advice they’d have for those thinking of taking the leap and applying to be on the board.

Tegan Legge (Chief Governing Officer) – Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve

Alison Vandervelde (Vice-Chief Governing officer) – County of Frontenac

Corina Mansfield  (Secretary) – Deep Roots Adventure

Tara McMurtry – The Chocolate Harlot

Greg Rodgers – Rockhill Bed and Breakfast

Cindy Jamieson – Whitewater Bed and Breakfast

Karen Warner – Gaia’s Den

Amanda Virtanen – Haliburton County (outgoing director)

Calling all Visionaries!
Apply to OHTO’s Board of Directors

Are you passionate about tourism in Ontario’s Highlands? 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.

Ready to put your name forward for the 2021-22 Board? Submit your online application here.

Meet the Board: Karen Warner, Gaia’s Den, Harcourt

Karen Warner may have spent many years travelling around the world and facilitating Sacred Site Travel, but home for her has always been Ontario’s Highlands. When she decided it was time to settle down for good, she and her partner decided to start a firewood business, a path that ultimately led her to tourism.

Not many people would make the leap that a firewood business could possibly be related to tourism, but for Karen, the connection was obvious.

“When you live in a rural area where tourism is the dominant industry, then everyone is in the tourism industry. When I was elected to the board I didn’t have a tourism business, I had a firewood business, but I felt we were in the tourism industry,” said Karen. “With every load of wood we delivered, we also delivered information on what is happening in the area. People would ask us about restaurants, events, activities. Providing tourism information helped our firewood business and the community. We came into tourism in a backdoor kind of way.”

Karen is a firm believer that when you live in a rural area you need to come together as a community, to make sure there are opportunities to attract people to the area. When she began thinking more about tourism, she finally settled on her own business idea that would draw people to the area.

Today, Karen and her husband, Rob Watson, steward Gaia’s Den, a Sacred Sanctuary in Nature where many transformational tourism opportunities are offered on 74 acres of private, forested land where there are three secluded waterfalls. Their signature product is ‘Spirit of the Waterfalls;’ offering five customized, guided, Shamanic Nature Experiences in the wild setting of Haliburton Highlands, each one focusing on a different aspect of Nature.

Coming onto the Board of Directors was a learning curve for Karen, who understood going in that OHTO’s board of directors was a governance board, not an operational board. Three terms later serving on the Board, Karen’s favourite part of being a director is making a difference being part of an organization that is really well run and progressive when it comes to tourism.

“I really feel that the organization is a leader in setting tourism trends, whether these trends be experiential, transformational or sustainable tourism,” Karen said.

Karen is especially proud of the organization’s efforts to de-colonize tourism by honouring and respecting the contributions of Indigenous Peoples, for “there is no part of this province where tourism in untouched by the Indigenous Peoples, their culture, traditions, history and sustainable way of life,” said Karen. “This region is making a big difference using the minimal resources that we have. We haven’t just impacted this region, we’ve impacted the province of Ontario and have a broader, international impact. That’s special to be part of.”

Being on the Board has helped keep the information flow for tourism related news more present for Karen to incorporate into her own business. Karen explained that when she first came on the board the focus was shifting from destination tourism to experiential tourism, and for many years it was hard for people to grasp what that meant.

Having access to the cutting edge concepts and shift in focus impacted her business and business model.

“The direction in tourism at that time was really important and helped me and my business grow a lot…the truth of tourism is it is experiential and we are combining that experience with making the region a destination.”

Karen said she would encourage anyone interested in the Board to “just do it.”

“I think it’s a good organization and a good Board to work with. There’s a group outcome, a business growth opportunity and a personal growth opportunity.”

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.

Meet the Board: Tegan Legge, General Manager, Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve

Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve General Manager, Tegan Legge, has been living and breathing tourism since she a kid, and that passion has carried her forward through various tourism-focused roles before landing her at Haliburton Forest. After 12 years there, four in her current role, Tegan is doing what she loves best, growing a brand and connecting with the tourism world

It was five years ago that Tegan stepped forward to serve as a director on OHTO’s board, with a goal of strengthening Haliburton Forest’s connection to tourism, forging new partnerships, and learning more about how to promote tourism marketing in the region. What she’s gained from the experience has helped educate and inspire her work.

“It’s definitely the collaboration of sitting in a room with tourism leaders in our tourism world and be able to bounce ideas and move our brand forward,” said Tegan. “It’s a two-way street on the board, we bounce ideas off each other and it helps strengthen the community and our shared knowledge and experience.”

Tegan’s time on the board has benefitted her three-fold in that she is looks at tourism from three perspectives, as the general manager for Haliburton Forest, as an OHTO director, and also from a travel trade partnership. In fact, Tegan credits her role with the board of directors for introducing her to the travel trade.

“Would I have known about travel trade without serving on the board of directors? I’m not sure, it’s kind of a chicken or the egg question,” Tegan laughed.

Tegan’s biggest goal for serving on the board is to bounce ideas off the other board directors, to build relationships and help out where she can, in order to direct the organization in a prosperous direction.

Tegan was recently appointed as Chief Governance Officer (CGO) on OHTO’s board of directors, a new position for her, but one she is eager to take on, particularly in light of OHTO’s new strategic direction to strengthen communities through responsible tourism.

“I’m looking forward to the new opportunities and working with the board as CGO,” said Tegan. “I’m really excited to help drive the organization in its new direction in strengthening our knowledge and brand through responsible tourism.”

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.

Meet the Board: Tara McMurtry, The Chocolate Harlot, Bancroft

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.

Meet the Board: Greg Rodgers, Rockhill B&B, Sharbot Lake

Greg Rodgers is a newcomer to tourism but has already jumped into the industry feet first, taking over a bed and breakfast in Sharbot Lake, bolstering the local tourism community and joining OHTO’s board of directors in 2020.

Greg and his wife are living examples of how tourism works hand in hand with economic development to grow communities. The couple travelled throughout the Frontenac region on day trips from their home base in Kingston long before they decided to buy a bed and breakfast. When they went looking for a property to purchase, they looked at Sharbot Lake and area with new eyes and saw the potential there.

“We are surrounded by the vacation hot zones here: Lanark County, Bon Echo Park, 1,000 Islands and Prince Edward County,” said Greg. “It seemed like the industry is always looking for the next destination to boom and we had a feeling it might be this one…we are beginning to realize this is a much more attractive and sought out area than people realize.”

After making their purchase of a former bed and breakfast perched on a cliff overlooking Sharbot Lake, Greg got to know his new home and business they chose for their retirement years.

“For the first year we never thought our bed and breakfast was in the tourism industry at all, we thought we were an accommodator, but after that we got passionate about the industry and wanted to throw ourselves into it,” said Greg.

One of the things Greg did which changed the course of tourism in Sharbot Lake was to write a short article for the local paper to encourage local tourism operators to come together and collaborate. That little article is still making waves for Greg, and what ultimately led him to join the board of directors.

It was while Greg was attending an Oh! Tourism Summit in 2019 that he met up with two influential tourism operators – Barrie Martin from Yours Outdoors in Haliburton Highlands and Chris Hinsperger from Bonnechere Caves in the Ottawa Valley – who inspired him to throw his name in the hat for the OHTO board of directors.

“The more I chatted with them [Barrie and Chris] the more I began to see how a deeper involvement with OHTO might help our industry and community,” said Greg. “I wanted to immerse myself deeper into the industry and the area and joining the board seemed like a good way to do that.”

Joining the board is modus operandi for Greg, meaning it’s normal for him to throw himself into something and in his words “go all in.”

“When I went to the summit and talked to Chris, he’s just so serious about being in the industry, so serious about how he operates as an operator, and I began to understand tourism is a serious business, it’s not child’s play,” explained Greg.

Greg sees the OHTO board of directors as a conduit for him to connect with other people in the industry and see what’s happening in other regions. His time on the board of directors has helped him to get a handle on trends in tourism and how they are impacting the area and their business, giving him a deeper insight than he may otherwise have gotten without having the added context at the regional level.

More than that, Greg is a natural networker and has embraced the opportunity to meet and connect with like minded people.

His advice for anyone thinking of applying to join the board?

“Don’t feel you have to save the whole industry, just come in and enjoy the people you’re working with…I’m on the board with really great people who I have a lot to learn from,” said Greg. “I’m enjoying just going with the flow and enjoying my time here.”

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.