We’re featuring a special TIAO Member each month to share with the #TourismFamily what they do, and how they connect with TIAO. Learn something new about your tourism industry colleagues, and the value of a TIAO Membership!
February Member of the Month: Attractions Ontario
This month we chatted with the following members of the Attractions Ontario team: Troy Young, President & CEO; Phil Casey, Director of Business Development; Kate March, Director of Communications; and Kathrine Christensen, Chair of the Board of Directors.
Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.
Who are you and what do you do? Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.
Troy: “We are an industry trade association representing over 500 attractions, DMOs, RTOs and accommodations. We are predominantly a marketing organization that helps promote our members in a pan-provincial format. Our goal is to raise the [profile] of our members with the travelling public, both from Ontario and from outside the province.”
Sourcing new benefits and partnership opportunities for association members is another big part of what the organization does.
Phil: “We never try to be stagnant. We always try to add more benefits to being a member [and] working with us.”
How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?
Troy: “We’ve been there right from the beginning—we were an inaugural TIAO Member. [We joined because] we believe in what TIAO is trying to do [regarding advocacy].
“It’s good to have somebody acting as your collective voice, particularly in the government relations field. We do some government relations work on our own, but when it comes to issues that are going to affect the entire tourism industry, it’s better to have that one voice.”
How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?
The Attractions Ontario team said that in general, TIAO’s advocacy work as the main source of value for their membership with the association.
Kathrine: “It’s important [to be a member of an advocacy association such as TIAO], because Attractions Ontario is the conduit to hundreds of small tourism businesses in Ontario. These are businesses that aren't necessarily able to take the time and the money to interact closely [with government] on their own.
“So having Attractions Ontario bring them information [from TIAO] and disseminate it—that’s the biggest value.”
Katherine noted that the information-sharing relationship travels in the other direction as well.
Kathrine: “The needs of the individual (small and large) attractions get funnelled to Attractions Ontario, and then comes back to TIAO in an aggregate form, that makes it beneficial [for everyone involved].”
DYK: TIAO extends certain membership perks to members of associations that are also TIAO Members. For example, members of Attractions Ontario can also take advantage of affordable group benefit rates through TIAO’s partnership with Group Lockhart.
What are you working on right now?
Launched at the end of 2017, Phil has been orchestrating tourism information, education and development workshops in different regional tourism areas across the province. Organized in conjunction with the region’s respective RTO, Phil present opportunities for working with Attractions Ontario, the participating RTO, and also local DMOs when applicable. However, educating local businesses on their identity as tourism attractions is a big part.
Phil: “One of the main focusses of our outreach [is] trying to explain to people that yes, you are an attraction. An attraction is anything that draws people to an area. It could be a forest, it could be a trail, it could be a restaurant, it could be a museum. Just because you don’t have a ticket counter doesn’t mean it’s not an attraction, [and] having to educate people on that is a big thing.
"The goal is to [organize educational workshops across the Ontario], because the definition of tourism has changed, the definition of an attraction has changed, and we’re trying to make sure people know that.”
In essence, Attractions Ontario workshops focus on “How to Tourism”—they tell attendees how they can get involved with Attractions Ontario, and also their local RTO and DMOs.
Phil: “We’re trying to build the region up. The main goal is to show them who we are, increase awareness of what they can do, and how to work with people in their area.”
Another initiative Attractions Ontario is working on (and that also launched last year) is the Blogger Program.
Kate: “Influencers and bloggers are a really big deal right now. [Engaging them is] a great way to get a regular person out to your attraction, tweeting and instagramming the pictures of what they can experience [at your attraction, to their followers].
“[Some influencers have] thousands and thousands of followers looking, and it’s an easy, cheap way for [Attractions Ontario members] to get their message out to an audience that [they] may not actually have right now.
“We vet [the bloggers] and find them for the attractions [on our end], so it’s a great opportunity that a lot of our members are really enjoying.
Kate manages a growing list of vetted bloggers and influencers that she recommends to produce content for various attractions. Members of Attractions Ontario can reach out to Kate to get involved, but the team also shares information about the program with new members, and as part of Phil’s outreach workshops. So far, not a single Attractions Ontario member that has participated in the Blogger Program has said they wouldn’t do it again.
New for 2018, Attractions Ontario is embarking on a new partnership with Destination Ontario and TripAdvisor. Part of the partnership involves Attractions Ontario advertising on TripAdvisor through Destination Ontario. Additionally, a TripAdvisor representative will be speaking at Attractions Ontario’s AGM in May.
Thank you to the Attractions Ontario team for being Februrary's TIAO Member of the Month #TourismFamily