OH! Tourism Summit Celebrates Culture and Community in Ontario’s Highlands
Pembroke, ON (October 30, 2017) – More than 100 delegates gathered in front of the red curtain at The Village Playhouse in Bancroft on October 23 for a community event unlike any other. OH! Tourism Summit, the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization’s seventh Annual Tourism Conference & AGM, packed the house that day, shaking up the traditional “conference vibe” and setting the stage for a unique program that placed tourism, community and culture in the limelight.
The day began with an official Land Acknowledgment and Four-Directional Ceremony in honour and respect of the land, plants, animals, stories and Indigenous Peoples of the unceded Bancroft region, which is located in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg. Algonquin Elder, Ada Tinney, led the ceremony, along with Karen Moon Beam (Warner), acknowledging the Ancestors and Spirits of the territory and thanking Indigenous Peoples for taking care of this land and for sharing it with newcomers and those who have the opportunity to work in this community. The ceremony also incorporated smudging, an offering of tobacco to Elder Ada, a drum song and an opening prayer.
“We are so honoured and grateful for such a special and important beginning to OH! Tourism Summit,” says Nicole Whiting, OHTO’s Executive Director. “The ceremony set the tone for the whole day, sharing indigenous protocols within the tourism industry and showing us how to honour and respect the lands and waterways upon which we guide visitors. It allowed us to approach the rest of the day with an openness to explore possibility and learn from one another.”
The program included OHTO’s Annual General Meeting, during which Whiting encouraged the Ontario’s Highlands tourism community to rally together to inspire new visitors to the region using the newly launched Come Wander brand platform, which she referred to as a regional “team jersey”. A keynote by Chris Williams, VP of Digital Assets with the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA) outlined the secrets to making an impact on digital channels, such as focusing on only a few social channels at a time, and, in the afternoon, OHTO’s Marketing Manager and Tourism Development Coordinator explained how to build a destination story from product to promotion.
In the afternoon, a group of business owners and tourism champions from across the region took part in a panel discussion. Speaking directly to their peers, who understand the specific challenges of a rural tourism landscape, the panelists discussed what drives them and offered real-life tips for turning their ideas into reality, such as community partnerships. “If I don’t have a good reason for saying no, I usually say yes,” said Andre Rieux of Pakenham’s Cartwright Springs Brewery, who has collaborated on a dark dining event with 2 Grands Piano Bar and a soundscape experience with Wilderness Rhythms.
The Hastings County Tourism Awards were a perfect ending to the day, recognizing the achievements of the local tourism community. “It was wonderful to see many of our tourism operators – even those who live and work hours away from Hastings County – stay into the evening to applaud the hard work of their colleagues,” says Whiting. Tweed and Company Theatre took home the award for “Tourism Champion of the Year”; the Municipality of Tweed’s Farm to Table: Canada 150 Community Dinner won “Festival of the Year”, and Nancy Hopkins of Country Roads Magazine was named “MVP” of Year.
OH! Tourism Summit will return in Fall of 2018.
Ontario's Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) is a not-for-profit organization mandated by the Province of Ontario to increase tourism within the counties of Haliburton, Lanark, and Renfrew and portions of Frontenac, Hastings, and Lennox and Addington. Find out more at www.comewander.ca/ohto.
For more information, contact:
Consumer Communications & Media Relations Coordinator
Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization
613.629.6486 ext. 206