Connecting and Supporting Tourism this Summer: June 2021

For over a year, Ontario’s Highlands’ communities and residents have lived through a time unlike any other. While COVID-19 has brought many challenges, it has also brought inspiring moments, connected communities and people, and encouraged us to support one another and be thankful for this place we call home.

Now that the light is being seen at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, this summer will be a time for locals to rediscover local and reconnect with the people, the communities, and the land that make this region special. By driving support for local discovery, businesses who have been some of the hardest hit from COVID-19 can experience a faster rebound and regional tourism can start to rebuild.

We all know and appreciate that our locals are the backbone of our tourism economy. Not only are they the ones that supported our businesses through this difficult period, but they are also the reason our region is so amazing. It’s going to take a while to rebuild our visitation, but we also know that our locals are going to be there with us every step of the way.

Supporting Local Tourism in 2021

OHTO’s marketing team has been hard at work developing marketing initiatives that encourages our locals to get out and explore, making it easier for them to reconnect with the region and what makes it a special destination. These initiatives aim to ignite that huge sense of local pride, all with the end goal of local tourism to drive local recovery.

Activity over this fiscal will feature a three-pronged marketing approach to ignite local tourism, support businesses, and connect audiences with what makes Ontario’s Highlands people and places so special.

1. The Connections Campaign: a docuseries and in-destination campaign connecting the audience with seven stories of inspiring locals and their deep connection to the region;

2. Community Champions program: a support program inviting locals to recognize community champions who have gone above and beyond to make this region great and to continue their great work;

3. Staycation Itinerary Series: robust staycation itineraries geared to make it easy for locals to rediscover the region, complete with suggestions to make their trip memorable; and,

4. Focused content: stories published weekly on ComeWander.ca with must-dos from around the region.

The Connections Series is a central part of OHTO’s Regional Recovery Plan which features a seven-episode docuseries aimed at sharing the stories of our people, encouraging residents to travel local, and driving support for local businesses. Whether it’s a connection to the water, the land, the communities, or the wide-open spaces, this series calls upon us to relate to, rediscover, and support everything that’s truly special about Ontario’s Highlands. Produced by Ben Hemmings Media, the docuseries launches on July 5 with Stefi van Wijk, avid paddler and manager of Madawaska Kanu Centre being the first featured local.

An exciting component of the Connections Campaign is the launch of the Community Champions program which recognizes organizations who are doing amazing work and supporting our communities by making them even better. Through this program, Ontario’s Highlands’ residents can nominate a local group or organization in their community that has gone above and beyond this 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 will vote on the finalists to determine which organizations will receive $3,000 in support to continue their initiatives.

The Connections Campaign will run from July 2021 to March 2022, with a new local being featured each month on OurConnections.ca (in development). Campaign messaging will be distributed through social media, niche magazines, local newspapers, and social media and google ads.

Our locals have been more active in the regional tourism industry then ever before. We want to turn their interest into long term loyalty for local!

How Can You Get Involved?

Tourism operators and stakeholders are encouraged to watch for the release of The Connections Series and take part in the campaign at a grassroots level. Nominate a local organization in your community, stay tuned for more information of series release dates of locals in your communities, then share through your networks and celebrate the connections in Ontario’s Highlands.

Navigating a COVID World: September 2020

There is nothing like a little pandemic to remind us how fragile our place is in the world and to help us appreciate our friends and family. As many small business owners may have noticed over the past six months, a pandemic like COVID-19 can also have an impact on business.  In Ontario, the tourism industry has been hit particularly hard and is facing many challenges. Customer spending habits are erratic and can quickly overwhelm a particular sector in the industry, while leaving others falling short.

And while the coronavirus has been challenging, it may also have brought to light gaps in business models and highlighted areas for improvement. Unfortunately, knowing what changes to implement can be challenging without being able to guess what will happen six months from now or even six days from now. Even if we had a crystal ball to predict the future, a second wave could throw all our plans into disarray.

It appears that COVID-19 is here to stay for a while, so businesses must evolve and adapt to this new reality. Fortunately, the best and brightest minds in the province have set their efforts to figuring out what businesses can do to safeguard their business in this changing world, and to predict what might come our way in the near and far future, and if and when a second wave comes our way.

Wondering what you can or should be doing right now to prepare for the second wave? Read on.

The Short Game

Short term actions businesses can take right now are intended to maintain operations and ensure a business is able to function under Stage 3 reopening guidelines from the province.

The Long Game

Long term actions are intended to help businesses think ahead to what may come, particularly if there is a second wave of COVID-19 infections, and ensure your business is in a good position to weather that storm.

  • Make sure your business is online and highly visible. Create or update your Google My Business account, social media, and website.
  • Implement e-commerce options; introduce online ordering and streamline the ordering process.
  • Look into shipping product feasibility.
  • Consider what virtual experiences you will be able to offer in the event of a step backward from Stage 3 to Stage 2.
  • Develop a plan of action for what happens if you or your staff become ill, and how you will continue to operate your business.

Coping with Uncertainty

As the pandemic has dragged on even the most energetic and dedicated operators have begun to feel the wearing stress that comes with constantly having to rethink and retool your business. Right now, there is a lot of speculation about what will tomorrow will bring, and coping with the uncertainty of the future is just one more additional stress business owners must face in a pandemic world.

At a time like this it’s important to dedicate some time to caretaking your own mental health and finding the time and energy to destress. All the best laid plans in the world won’t be worth much if you aren’t in a good mental space.

Stay safe,

Julie Mulligan

Marketing Manager