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!

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.

Successful connections: Looking back at 2021

With a new year comes a chance to look back at the challenges and success of the previous – and what a year it was in Ontario and around the world.

In spite of the changing conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, when summer came and lockdowns were lifted, the marketing team at the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) was ready to hit the ground running with a brand-new marketing campaign with a goal of community building and developing brand messaging through local storytelling.

This campaign was carefully crafted using a mix of research and experience, all of which told us that a large trend in destination marketing was community building and authentic connections through the local experience.  With this information, OHTO’s marketing team brainstormed how to create a campaign that was pandemic proof and could be rolled out despite shifts in COVID restrictions.

The solution was the ‘Our Connections campaign, a content series featuring the stories of seven inspiring locals and their unique connections to the region, anchored by mini docu-series and content shared via social media.

The Connections docu-series introduced the concept of connections to the water, the land, the people, and more, and invited locals to relate to, rediscover, and support everything that’s truly special about Ontario’s Highlands. The series launched in July 2021 and ends in March 2022.

Local Connections

Did you see one of these stories in your newsfeed and were inspired by the stories of people who live and work near you? If you missed one or more, you can find all Connections content here: https://ourconnections.ca/

The stories we shared were inspiring, exciting, and 100 percent local! Here is a list of storytellers featured through this series:

By the Numbers: Connections Successes

The biggest success from the Connections campaign came from the increased knowledge of the people and stories that help shape Ontario’s Highlands and the connections that were created with the audience. It has built community and got locals feeling a heightened sense of pride in place, they engaged with that message, and they shared that message.  These stories and videos were shared far and wide, across the province, and beyond.

The metrics from the campaign exceeded expectations and are a reflection of the interest locals have in connecting to their communities, and the interesting people who live and work there.

Here are a few highlights of the campaign’s successes:

Other Marketing Stats

Beyond the Connections campaign, Ontario’s Highlands stories and advertising reached far and wide in 2021.

  • There were 104 stories created and distributed through social media and marketing campaigns in 2021.
  • Stories generated 277,440 page views between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021.
  • There were more than 34,000 clicks to operators in 2021, which means direct referrals to operators by customers interested in the experiences they are offering.

Meet the Champions

Also in 2021, OHTO created a Community Champions program to recognize the efforts of locals in the community. Through this program, Ontario’s Highlands’ residents nominated local groups or organizations that had gone above and beyond over the past year to strengthen the local community, advocate for the environment, or help preserve the natural wonders of Ontario’s Highlands.

Following the nomination period, the public voted on the finalists to determine which organizations would receive $3,000 in support to continue their initiatives. OHTO received nearly 30 nominations for 20 organizations or businesses in the region.

And the winners were….

Each of the award-winning organizations received $3,000 to continue the work they do for their communities.

Here’s to looking ahead to an even more amazing 2022!

The Rise of Responsible Tourism and Pandemic Response: Looking Back at 2021

If year one of the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that you have to stay on your toes when responding to the constantly changing world around you. This is something Nicole Whiting, Executive Director for the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization understands full well and put into practice in year two in 2021.

As executive director of a tourism organization at a time when tourism is facing complex challenges due to the pandemic, Nicole has the responsibility of guiding and reshaping our region’s approach to meet a rapidly changing landscape.

“Before the pandemic, our focus was on how to attract outside visitors to the region,” Nicole explained. “When travel restrictions came into play we realized that we had to completely change our strategy, and quickly.”

Accordingly, 2021 was a time for Nicole, OHTO staff, and the board of directors to reflect on lessons learned in 2020 and assess a new vision and approach.

“We realized that our industry needed our support more than ever; revenues were down, availability of staff was limited, incorporating regulations was a huge undertaking, and the clientele was totally changing.  The focus was going to be local, and we were really going to have to engage with and connect with our local communities.”

To further complicate matters, Nicole explained it quickly became clear in the early days of the pandemic that many tourism offerings in Ontario’s Highlands “were in really high demand” and as a result, there were new challenges to deal with, like over tourism and an influx of new investors purchasing properties and generational businesses.

Nicole and the Board of Directors recognized that the 2021 business planning needed to address these growing issues, so the organization could focus on offering support, connecting with locals, and strengthening communities through responsible tourism.

“The challenges we are facing are greater than any one business or organization can tackle, a community-driven approach that balances prosperity and preservation of our rural quality of life is what has become our North Star,” explained Nicole.

Turning to principles of responsible tourism made sense and was a clear-cut way of responding to the challenges the industry was facing in Ontario. Shifting the focus to introduce responsible tourism principles into the operational plan was a trial-and-error process, but one with tremendous reward potential and is continuously evolving.

“Our approach has been one of continuous learning and experimenting on the ways we can follow through on our guiding principles, and how we can educate our industry and our visitors about this journey,” said Nicole.

A journey is an apt description of the responsible tourism approach embraced by OHTO. In essence, responsible tourism invites visitors and operators to look at long-term sustainability through a variety of lenses, through inclusivity, community stewardship, and health and safety.

Looking ahead to 2022, Nicole is excited to be continuing OHTO’s journey into responsible tourism and committing to learning more about what that means for the organization. Educating herself, the board and the OHTO team was the first step, but next up is extending that education to communities and stakeholders.

“We feel really good about where we are right now,” said Nicole. “We’re still in a recovery and rebuilding stage but through engaging with our industry we’ll know when we need to revise or change course.”

The future in tourism may be uncertain in Ontario, but Nicole sees the silver lining in the changes brought by the pandemic.

“It’s exciting to see how much Ontarians enjoy our tourism offerings, and how they are developing a really strong connection to what the province has to offer,” said Nicole. “I think when things start opening up and we start attracting visitors from further afield we’ll see even greater demand. I’m excited about that, and the longevity of local support for tourism.”

For Ontario’s Highlands’ tourism operators, Nicole feels even greater optimism for 2022. Over the past two years, Nicole has been inspired by the resiliency and innovation demonstrated by Ontario’s Highlands’ tourism operators, particularly in the face of such complex challenges.

In particular, seeing the way businesses have come to lean on one another is encouraging, and a trend Nicole hopes will continue into the future.

Her advice for business owners heading into 2022 is clear cut and simple:

“Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s difficult but it’s working, and OHTO is here to help along the way.”

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

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.