Member of the Month

  • Take a walk down memory lane and discover TIAO's 2018 Members of the Month. see more

    Take a walk down memory lane and discover TIAO's 2018 Members of the Month. TIAO thoroughly enjoyed interviewing a new member every month and is excited to keeping the tradition alive in 2019. 

  • Haddas Lederman posted an article
    Learn more about TIAO's May Member of the Month, Le Boat. see more

    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!

    Member of the Month: Le Boat 

    This month we talked to Lisa Mclean, Marketing Manager, USA, Canada & Latin America at Le Boat.

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    “Le Boat has been the number one provider of boat rental holidays in Europe for the last 50 years. We have a fleet of 940 boats across France, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and Italy. And now here, in Canada, on the Rideau waterway.”

    “We moved our North American headquarters from Florida to Ontario in September of 2018 and that’s when I started working for Le Boat. Prior to taking on this new role, I had been in the travel and tourism industry for over 15 years working with a variety of different brands.”

    “Le Boat is introducing the popular European activity of house-boating to Canada, and we’re educating people on what a boating holiday is all about. The biggest surprise to everyone is that you can rent our boats, which range anywhere from 37 to 49 feet, without needing any previous boating experience. This is because our training on the boat  and our certificate issued, is legally equal to the Ontario Boater’s card. So renters in Ontario will learn how to safely operate the cruiser on the water before setting out. They do not need the boaters’ license.” 

    “When Le Boat was scouting new destinations to expand into, Canada was a clear top destination. When they looked into the Canadian waterways, what caught their eye was the  UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Rideau in Ontario. People coming from all over the world cannot believe the stunning waterway with its wide-open lakes. Even people who live in the area forget what a gem that we have right in our own backyard.”

    “In addition to its UNESCO designation, what was really appealing about the Rideau Canal is that it does offer the best of all European cruises in one. The Rideau has fantastic outdoor activities like canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and fishing. The water is pristine and great for swimming too. Plus it offers so many amazing stops where you can visit little artisan villages, wineries, craft breweries, and restaurants. Westport, Perth, Smiths Falls, Merrickville, Manotick are just a few of the charming towns along the way! Another fabulous thing about the Rideau Canal is that it’s within two large cities: Ottawa and Kingston.”

    “In Ontario, we currently have a fleet of 20 boats in five sizes - accommodating from 2 people up to 12 people. We launched last year in 2018, our season was May to October and we were 82% sold out. We consider this a great success in our first year [70% came from North America and 30% came from the rest of the world].”


    Promoting the Region:

    “Le Boat has been welcomed by all of the local communities and all of the local shoreline residents, everyone has been very friendly with all of our customers and that has come through loud and clear on all of our customer surveys. We’ve had tremendous support from the local mayors, the councilors, and RTOs all along the Rideau Canal waterway from Kingston to Ottawa. I think everyone is excited for all the tourism opportunities that will come with Le Boat coming to the region and they’re happy to make sure that we’re promoting the other local businesses and tourist attractions along the Rideau Canal.”   

    “We really want to make sure that we’re promoting coming to the Rideau region and enjoying all of the rich experiences we have to offer. Our goal is to promote the entire region and have people take time to explore; not just drive past.”


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    Le Boat has been a TIAO Member since their first season in Ontario in 2018.

    “We think being a TIAO Member is a fantastic way to network with other people within the Ontario tourism industry. We also think TIAO is a great advocate for Ontario tourism businesses. I love your updates [including TIAOs Weekly Newsletter] which allows me to stay-up to date on everything related to the tourism industry.”   


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Lisa spoke to the networking opportunities that TIAO provides as a major source of value for Le Boat.

    “TIAO has given our Global CEO, Cheryl Brown, fantastic opportunities to speak at conferences to announce that Le Boat has come to the Rideau Canal and is offering European style cruising. Being a TIAO Member has been a great springboard to help us network with other businesses and raise our profile within the Ontario and Canadian tourism landscape.”


    What are you working on right now?

     Le Boat’s 2019 Season:

    “Our 2019 season began on May 17 and goes until October 14. New for the 2019 season is our offering of one-way cruises. We opened a satellite base in Seeley's Bay which allows people who are on a short holiday to see more of the Rideau Canal. We’re looking to introduce 4 additional boats every year and in the next 3-5 years, we’re hoping to have a fleet of 32 boats in Ontario.”

     A Spotlight on the Rideau Canal:  

    “We brought three different TV shows to the Rideau this year to bring attention to the fantastic cruising ground that we have along 202 kilometers on Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Great Canal Journeys is a long running series in the UK featuring beloved actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales. PBS Travelscope with Joseph Rosendo has won six Emmy awards and is seen by over 286 million viewers and Powerboat Television on Global TV aired across Canada and into the northern US. Each dedicated a full episode to cruising in Ontario on the Rideau. The Rideau Canal is a fantastic waterway that is probably under-utilized and under-promoted.”

    Working with Parks Canada:

    “The global team jokes that the Rideau Canal is the ‘Disney World’ of the locks because Parks Canada staff are amazing ambassadors to the region and engage with all the customers that go through the locks and tell them what to look forward to seeing next."

    "Currently we’re looking at all the different waterways that are available in Ontario; I know that the team is working closely with Parks Canada to discuss logistics around possibly expanding our North American operations.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Again, Lisa pointed to TIAO’s advocacy work and networking opportunities as her favourite thing about TIAO.

    "It's very helpful to have an organization like TIAO working on behalf of the tourism industry, engaging with the provincial government, advocating on behalf of workers, and helping to promote different businesses. It’s also an amazing asset to have TIAO bring all kinds of businesses together so that we can learn about each other, and promote Ontario as a fantastic destination to visit.”


    Thank you to Lisa for speaking with us about how businesses can be embraced and how the local economy can be improved as a result, for sharing Le Boat's support for TIAO, and for being our member of the month for May!


  • Discover TIAO's April Member of the Month, Festival & Events Ontario (FEO). see more

    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!

    Member of the Month: Festivals & Events Ontario (FEO)

    This month we talked to Dave MacNeil, Chief Executive Officer at Festivals & Events Ontario (FEO). 

    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.

    Before entering the festivals and events world, Dave spent 32 years at CTV Kitchener, in a variety of capacities. He then became the Executive Director of Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, and currently serves as Festivals & Events Ontario’s CEO.   

    “At FEO, we like to say that we are the voice of festivals and events in Ontario. Some of the main things that we do is advocate to the various levels of governments on behalf of festivals and events in the province. We strive to educate people on different aspects in and around the festivals and events world through our annual conference, our MasterClass series, and our podcast. We also help market the different festivals through our events guide, our website, and all of our social media platforms.”

    In terms of the ability to bring people together, Dave pointed out there is four streams of festivals and events where trends tend to follow: culture, culinary, music/arts, and sports.

    “Part of our ongoing education process with different organizers is that the key to festivals and events is community building – whether its celebrating diverse backgrounds, culture, music, food, sport, it’s bringing people together to share those visions and community build.”

    “From our point of view as an organization, as every community and every municipality works a bit differently, we’re encouraging festival organizers and leaders to use their RTO’s and partner with their DMO’s to make sure that everyone is engaged in the process. It’s through them [the RTO’s and DMO’s] that partnerships are built.”


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    FEO has been a TIAO member since 2007. Dave pointed to partnerships as the main reason for joining TIAO.

    “I think we’re stronger when we’re working together. We’ve all got a voice, but when we come together as a group to speak on behalf of the strength of the industry, our impact is much greater. In the province of Ontario, there are 444 municipalities, meaning it’s impossible for one organization to get everywhere, but when a team is put together that goes to different conferences [such as the Ontario Tourism Summit, Queen’s Park Day, AMO, and ROMA] and you’re able to engage in one-one-one conversations, I think that’s of real value and importance.”

    When asked what advice you would give to an organization that wants to get involved in advocacy initiatives with TIAO, Dave noted that knowing your message inside out is of vital importance.

     “When you’re dealing with politicians, whether it’s at a municipal, provincial, or federal level, a lot of their decisions are based on facts – so know your story, make sure your facts are correct, provide examples as much as you can, and really build a good rapport with your local MPPs. As well, try to engage with as many people as possible, I think that brings strength to your message as well.”


    What are you working on right now?

    “In our field, risk management is becoming a huge topic – whether it’s the cost of policing in communities or the cost of security – we’re starting to see a lot of festivals that are dropping off because they can’t afford policing costs – so it’s how we’re going to work with municipalities. I think everyone sees the importance of coming together and community building - but at what cost?”

    “We’re currently building a risk management tool with a grant through the Celebrate Ontario program, that’s driven towards our events people. It’s a broad base tool with 15 different modules that walks you through each of the things that you should be thinking of – it’s not just knives and guns and street blockages and stuff like that. The tool ensures that individuals can answer questions like: Is your computer system safe? Are your files backed up? Do you have a strong financial model? As you go through the tool learning about risk management. It also has an element that you can build you basic risk management plan for your organization. We’re in the final stages of development and testing that and it’ll be launched this summer.”

    Dave also told us about two exciting new projects that FEO is working on: podcasts and its MasterClass Series.


    “Podcasting has become so popular and for me it’s a really good way to tell a story so that our members can immediately get answers and gives people the opportunity to listen at their leisure. We did about 32 podcasts last year and it’s our hope this year to do about 60.”

    “We’ve had great success – we have over 3,000 listeners already and that number keeps growing. [This number represents listeners from not only across Ontario and Canada, but a number of listeners from the United States and Europe.]

    “Our most popular podcast was when we talked about cannabis and how it’s going to affect the festivals. This is one example of an ongoing topic that we’ll keep providing updates on. Not only has the podcast seen guests like the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, TIAO President & CEO Beth Potter, joined Dave on the podcast. Listen to the episode here.

     MasterClass Series: 

    “Through our MasterClass Series we’re trying to get out to more communities across the province and bring those learning opportunities closer to them. It’s a tough go to get people engaged and involved, but I think it’s important to make sure that we try to get out more than once a year to help educate different communities.”

    “We try to focus on one theme, such as sponsorship, social media, risk management, or health & safety each MasterClass. Depending on the speakers that we have available and the topic, we have anywhere from 1-4 different speakers, and we try to go beyond the basics of each topic.”


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Again, Dave spoke to the partnerships and the advocacy work that TIAO provides as a major source of value for FEO.

    “I’ve always said that strength is in partnerships and I think that is one thing that TIAO does really well, is bringing different groups of people together [such as hotels, DMO’s, RTO’s] to share a common goal for tourism in Ontario. Our strength in numbers is really what builds the whole tourism story in the province."


    Thank you to Dave for speaking with us about festivals & events developments, for sharing FEO’s Tourism’s support for TIAO, and for being our member of the month for April!

    FEO Top 100 Festivals Winners



  • Discover Wikwemikong Tourism see more

    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!

    Member of the Month:  Wikwemikong Tourism

    This month we talked to Luke Wassegijig, Tourism Manager at Wikwemikong Tourism.

    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.

    Wikwemikong Tourism offers an array of Indigenous experiences that reflect the cultural lifestyles and traditions of the Anishinabek people of the Three Fires Confederacy. As Manitoulin Island's largest First Nation community and Canada's only officially recognized Unceded Indigenous Territory, Wikwemikong Tourism invites guests to delve into its rich culture and history through nature based tours.

    “Wikwemikong Tourism is a department and an entity within the Wikwemikong Development Commission, which is our First Nations economic development arm.” Wikwemikong Tourism focuses on community tourism development by implementing their tourism strategy, made up of pillars that guide them towards a successful outcome.

    The pillars of the tourism strategy are: tourism infrastructure, marketing/branding, product development, human resource development, premier events, and own source revenue. Luke noted that the focus of Wikwemikong’s current tourism strategy is product development.

    “Out of those six pillars, what we do is apply the tourism strategy which looks at building tourism infrastructure in the community [attractions, hiking trails, and historic sites], as well as enhancing some of our premier events like the Wiikwemkoong Annual Cultural Festival and Manitoulin Ice Showdown.  Other initiatives include developing new products in the community, such as Point Grondine Park and some of our cruise tourism initiatives and motor coach & FIT packages that we offer to industry.”


    With Wikwemikong’s tourism strategy ending in 2019, will you be doing another five-year strategy? How different will your strategy be moving forward?

    “The five-year tourism strategy that we are currently under, only encompassed the geographical area based on our main community on Manitoulin Island, which is Wikwemikong. Our community is expanding through land claims which will make us around the third largest First Nation in Canada. In saying this, one of the things that we’re doing is expanding the tourism strategy to encompass the Killarney region. The new strategy will look more like a regional strategy which will take into consideration our expanded land interests as a result of our current negotiations."

    “We will continue using the six pillars for our new tourism strategy and the guiding principles that are associated with each specific pillar.”


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    2018 Indigenous Tourism Award winner Wikwemikong Tourism recently became a TIAO Member and touts its TIAO Membership to the opportunity to further build its partnerships.

    “Wikwemikong Tourism strives to build partnerships with industry; any way that we can build relationships with industry that will assist us in reaching our economic goals and our targets, will definitely benefit not only our organization but others within the industry.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Luke pointed to creating dialogue with the provincial government as his favourite thing about TIAO.


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Again, Luke spoke to TIAO’s leadership on advocacy issues and creating dialogue with the government as a major source of value for Wikwemikong Tourism.

    “I think that TIAO is doing some great work in terms of creating dialogue with the province and having sessions where they’re able to have open dialogue with the province. I think mainly we want to be able to align our objectives and our strategies with the provincial strategies, and TIAO helps us achieve this.”


    Is there any advice or anything in particular that you would like to share with the industry about Indigenous tourism?

    “I think it’s important to be cognizant of the Indigenous tourism product that’s out there and the economic impacts that the industry and the sector has. We are definitely a growing sector and there’s opportunity to partner with different companies and organizations.”

    Regarding working with Indigenous tourism, Luke noted that it’s very important to be respectful and mindful as we are in a time of reconciliation with “every community fostering reconciliation in some manner.”


    What are you working on right now?

    “In terms of our community tourism development, under our tourism infrastructure pillar, this year, one of the big plans for us is building our waterfront. Our community encompasses over 150,000 acres of waterfront, so what we want to do here is look at several different development options within our community that support tourism. There are five sites in particular that we are looking at in terms of developing infrastructure that will support marine tourism as well as complimenting our proposed cultural center. The waterfront plan will focus on increasing accessibility via boat launches and increasing own source revenue opportunities through small scale marina facilities.”

    Luke noted that there is a growing and improved cruise industry visiting Manitoulin Island and the Great Lakes. One off the things that Wikwemikong Tourism is looking into is an enhancement project at their former marina facility. They’re planning on retrofitting the marina facility into a cultural centre to accommodate motor coaches and cruise ships visiting the island.

    Wiikwemkoong Annual Cultural Festival:

    “Through other product offerings, one of the things that we do through premier events is our Wiikwemkoong Annual Cultural Festival, which is one of North Eastern North America’s longest running Pow wow’s. Annually we are enhancing this event through different types of cultural experiences. Wikwemikong Tourism coordinates the Cultural Pavilion which provides interactive workshops that offer some hands-on cultural and educational experiences facilitated by local knowledge keepers and academics. These experiences include: cultural history, cultural etiquette, smaller versions of our medicine walks, and culinary experiences."

    Trail Development Services:

    “We also have our Trail Development Services which go to different First Nations and municipalities across the province. We build non-motorized trails for communities and we do everything from trail planning, designing to constructing and even training, which builds capacity in some of the First Nation communities across the province.” 

    Building Partnerships:

    “Our organization supports the work of Indigenous Tourism Ontario in strengthening the sector for the Indigenous tourism business. Continuing to have inclusive dialogue with indigenous business will strengthen the working relationship with TIAO.”

    “Wikwemikong Tourism has always been open for business and is always looking at building partnerships that will help strengthen the industry. Through the Indigenous tourism products that are offered, we’re doing a really good job at building regional partnerships that are aligned with our strategies”

    Not only has Wikwemikong Tourism been successful at building partnerships, the organization was recognized at the Ontario Tourism Summit Awards Gala, by being presented with the inaugural Tourism Industry Awards of Excellence Indigenous Tourism Award.


    Thank you to Luke for speaking with us about Indigenous tourism developments, for sharing Wikwemikong Tourism’s support for TIAO, and for being our member of the month for March!

  • The BMVA plays a unique hybrid role within Ontario's tourism industry see more

    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!

    Member of the Month: Blue Mountain Village Association

    This month we talked to Andrew Siegwart, President of the Blue Mountain Village Association.

    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. 

    Andrew personally has a long history with the tourism industry and championing the sector, having worked for Tourism HR Canada and Retail Council of Canada in the past. Currently, he serves as the BMVA’s President.

    “The BMVA is a hybrid of a DMO, a BIA, a homeowner association and a tourism operator. We support all partners connected to Blue Mountain Village.”

    The BMVA has existed for about 15 years, since the birth of Blue Mountain Village.

    “When the resort was built, the model was that a village association was created in order to manage some key functions: media relations, programming for public spaces, representing the stakeholders to government, and managing national and international marketing.”

    In addition to those functions, the BMVA also acts as a liaison to all village members and investors—a unifying force to work with all associated stakeholders on shared goals and objectives.

    “[With regards to tourism], we’re the not-for-profit agency that can focus on issues that a group of tourism operators may not have the time or the resources to do—federal issues, provincial issues, labour force issues, etcetera.”


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    The BMVA has been a TIAO Member since the village association was formed.

    “Our membership initially was to be connected to issues and trends at a provincial level. Operating outside the orbit of a larger market can become insular. Being part of a group like TIAO keeps us abreast of other issues and priorities [facing the tourism industry]. Oftentimes we’re experiencing the same ones, but it does help us to understand what’s going on [on a broader scale] and prioritize accordingly.

    “In the early years [we focused on] getting an understanding of the tourism landscape and sharing that information locally with our own members and partners. Now, we have a lot of advanced issues and challenges we’re trying to address, such as the labour supply, attainable housing, [and] complying with new cannabis regulations [among other topics]. Having TIAO as a resource has become increasingly more important.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    “Let’s start with the team! Our business is about relationships, people and service. I can call TIAO with any question and have insights and data within the day. For me that’s the real value add.

    “I’ve also really enjoyed the ability to learn from colleagues and peers across the province—that is hugely valuable and is another one of my favourite things about TIAO.

    “I absolutely love participating in Tourism Day at Queen’s Park. For an operator outside of the GTA, to come and participate in that event, be guided by TIAO’s support and build relationships is priceless. And it’s free! Any TIAO Member who could be participating, should.

    TIAO’s next Tourism Day @ Queen’s Park is scheduled for March 6! Registration opens January 7. This event is exclusive to TIAO Members. Click here to learn more about TIAO Membership.

    Photo Above Right: Andrew pictured at Tourism Day @ Queen's Park 2018 with The Hon. Michael Tibollo, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport; The Hon. Bill Walker, Minister of Government and Community Services; and Bryan Plumstead, Tourism Manager, Grey County Tourism and TIAO Board Director.

    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    In addition to participation in events such as Tourism Day at Queen’s Park, Andrew mentioned the Ontario Tourism Summit and other TIAO events as sources of value for the BMVA. TIAO’s advocacy work, however, has become more valuable to the organization in recent years.

    “There’s so much change, and our governments are getting less predictable, not more. I think the value of membership with a provincial association can’t be beat.”


    What is one piece of advice you would give to an organization that wants to get involved in advocacy initiatives with TIAO?

    “If you’re not thinking about it, if you’re not participating in [government advocacy] right now, you are unprepared for your future. You don’t have to be on the outside—through even just a little bit of engagement with TIAO, you can be dialled in. If you’re not dialled in, your business is at risk.”


    What are you working on right now?

    “We are squarely focussed on labour supply and labour market dynamics, improving the labour pool, [and] understanding how that happens in a rural tourism environment. I believe we’ve taken a leadership role in diving deep into those issues. The challenge for us is, not unlike most smaller markets, we have a high outflow of youth and a high inflow of retirees, which is erratically shaping our local economy, the cost of housing, among other things.

    “[The BMVA is] trying to advocate for the necessary infrastructure that will support our sector: attainable housing, more investment in transit, local benchmarks for data sharing, and eventually child care support.

    “That’s been a really big file, taking us as an association and a tourism operator to [new] terrain. We’re influencing zoning by-laws and official plans and understanding how to work with the development sector and planning teams. We have to look at trends that represent our members, but we’re also looking at trends that can drive our business. It’s a unique dynamic!”

    The BMVA has also been working on elevating and adding to Blue Mountain’s experience offerings. Enter the #BluminationDreamTrail, an interactive trail experience that launched December 1 and will run until January 6, with some elements of the trail remaining throughout the season.

    “Our summers and winters are very busy peaks, [but] we’re spending more time building business in valleys of the year. December can sometimes be a slower period, [so] we’re trying to create new traditions, offer new experiences and incentivize people to come for something new.

    “There are a few places that have been experimenting with lights and technology, but what we’re doing differently [with the #BluminationDreamTrail] is an interactive technology component.”

    The #BluminationDreamTrail features a path of various changing lights that interact with guests in different ways as they approach a specific installation. The concept was brought to life through partnerships with local firms specializing in landscaping and 3D lighting projects. The trails’ installations are set up in ways that highlight Blue Mountain Village’s natural sights, and is free to experience.

    “It’s really about adding something for the family to do, [without] adding a cost to it. Which of course then drives all of the other businesses in our community. It’s part experiential, part marketing. We looked at times in the calendar where we wanted to cultivate and development business, tell a different story and offer a unique experience. It challenged us to do something new and innovative.”

    Also in the works: next year, the BMVA and Blue Mountain Resort will be welcoming TIAO and the Tourism Industry for the 2019 Ontario Tourism Summit. Pre-registration is available at OTS18 rates until January 18—REGISTER NOW!

    Thank you to Andrew for speaking with us, and to the BMVA for being TIAO’s Member of the Month for December! We’re very excited to be heading to Blue Mountain for OTS19, October 29-30.

  • See how The Globe and Mail supports TIAO and ON's tourism industry see more

    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!

    Member of the Month: The Globe and Mail

    This month we talked to Mark Iker, Advertising Manager at The Globe and Mail and TIAO Board Director.

    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.

    Currently in the role of one of the Advertising Managers at The Globe and Mail for 38 years.  With regards to how the Globe and Mail fits into Ontario’s Tourism Industry, Mark explained how he can help with the industry to gain greater coverage within the newspaper.

    “Local tourism is so important to the overall economy of Ontario, and unless you work in the industry, you don’t how important it is in terms of the amount of jobs the sector creates, and how all businesses are affected positively through a healthy local tourism industry.

    “The travel category is very important to the overall advertising revenue for The Globe and Mail, and local tourism is one of the key components to the overall revenue of the category. Over 60 percent of our audience is based in Ontario, and there are so many great things to see and do in the province that The Globe and Mail can help promote to its readership.”

    Much more than just a print newspaper, The Globe and Mail is a multi-media company that utilizes a multitude of different platforms to produce all different types of content. From digital, to print, to custom content, to custom editorial, to native social media and influencers, The Globe can cover it all.

    Mark personally recognized the importance of the tourism industry to local economies early in his career.

    “When I began my advertising career selling the travel category, I quickly realized how much local tourism meant to our readership. [For instance], special supplements such as Explore Ontario and Taste Ontario have become a reader favourites. We get testimonials from advertisers who say readers are taking these supplements into local tourism businesses with a copy of an ad or editorial that was written about them. Our readers have a passion for local tourism [and] these supplements are just one little thing I can help produce for the industry.”


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    “The Globe and Mail has been a TIAO member since 2007.  I spearheaded the effort for The Globe to become a member and support TIAO and the industry; I felt it was important to show how we as a company can help give back.”


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    A sample of TIAO's OTS18 ad that appeared in The Globe and Mail on October 6, 2018

    “Being a member of TIAO has been of great value. Membership has opened many doors for The Globe to forge deeper relationships with its clients, and gain a better knowledge of what their challenges are and how we can help.

    “Supporting TIAO by sponsoring the Tourism Industry Awards of Excellence has given The Globe and Mail more recognition with TIAO Members and the province’s tourism industry. As a company, we are trying to help promote local tourism in many different ways, and sponsoring these awards is one of them.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    “In addition to the great golf tournament, the Ontario Tourism Summit and relationship-building with its members, TIAO is the voice of tourism in Ontario.   There needs to be a voice out there advocating on behalf of its members to the government and TIAO fulfills that role.

    “If I had my own small tourism business, I know that there is a voice out there that I can turn to for help with advocacy issues. TIAO also speaks for both large and small tourism businesses alike.”


    What is one piece of advice you would give to an organization that wants to get involved in advocacy initiatives with TIAO?

    “Make sure you do your due diligence and have the facts right before you [engage] TIAO to advocate on your behalf.”


    What are you working on right now?

    Mark told us about one of The Globe’s recent initiatives this past summer, mobilizing a social media influencer to help spread the word that destinations in Northeastern Ontario were unaffected by forest fires. You can read the influencer's story here.

    “Northeastern Ontario Tourism came to us with an issue they had with getting calls from people who had booked fishing cabins [and other vacation activities] in the region. Guests were hearing about forest fires happening in the region, and were cancelling [out of concern].

    “Northeastern Ontario Tourism requested a reporter to be sent to the area to write a story about how it was unaffected by forest fires. The advertising department doesn’t have access to do that sort of thing, but what we do have as part of our portfolio is a social media influencer program that we can use in cases like this.

    “So we approached our social media person, told her what the issue was, and started conversations about how we could help [Northeastern Ontario Tourism]. We were able to put a package together, and get an influencer and photographer to go up to the region to report how great things were.

    “It came together within less than a week, and it took off—it went very well. The story got picked up by CBC News in Sudbury, both the influencer and Northeastern Ontario Tourism staff involved had a great time, and everyone was ecstatic about the results.

    “It’s one of the additions we can do at The Globe and Mail that also help out regions in need, [and through these programs] we can [help promote] tourism in Ontario. This is something completely different that we’re trying to grow, separate from your traditional buy-in with the paper. Our social media expert wants to do more features like these, as travel and tourism is the perfect fit for these types of activities.”

    The Northeastern Ontario influencer program was the first of its kind done by The Globe and Mail for local tourism. The Globe hopes to do many more in the coming year!

    Thank you to The Globe and Mail for being TIAO's Member of the Month for October, and for its continuous support as a TIAO Visionary and sponsor of the Tourism Industry Awards of Excellence! #TourismFamily

    TIAO President & CEO Beth Potter presenting the Tourism Industry Awards of Excellence with Mark @ OTS17 in Ottawa

  • Catch up on TNO's current activities in Ontario's North see more

    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!

    Member of the Month: Tourism Northern Ontario

    This month we talked to David MacLachlan, Executive Director, and Marty Kalagian, Board Chair, Tourism Northern Ontario.

    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.

    Alternatively known as Regional Tourism Organization (RTO) 13, Tourism Northern Ontario (TNO) coordinates marketing, product development and other activities for the purpose of increasing tourism visitation and revenues in Ontario’s North. RTO 13 is divided into three subregions, but destination marketing organizations from each area work together as a group.

    David: "The industry recognized that if we work together across the north, we would be able to do more than if we were divided up into three individual regions."

    David MacLachlan and Marty Kalagian

    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    David: "TNO has been a TIAO Member since the formation of the RTOs [in 2011]."

    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    David: "Going back to the Discovering Ontario Report, one of the recommendations made was for tourism to speak with one voice to government. TIAO has certainly filled that role for the tourism industry in Ontario.

    "The organization has been quite helpful over the years in terms of some of the issues the RTOs had [when they started], and being able to communicate those issues back to government. TIAO has been able to work with us to ensure a smoother roll-out of the Regional Tourism Program, which has been a significant undertaking."

    Marty: "As involved as we are in our own area, it’s interesting and important to know what’s going on in the rest of the province. It’s also very important to have someone advocating on behalf of the industry for the entire province. As much as we try to do those things our ourselves in our own areas, I believe TIAO’s presence and importance lies in the fact that it represents the whole province."


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    David: "It’s the people. People are our greatest resource, and I think it’s the same for TIAO. We’re all in the same boat, and I can’t honestly say there’s ever been a time where I felt we couldn’t come to TIAO and have a discussion."


    What are you working on right now?

    David: "On the marketing side—which is about half our budget—we’ve been working to align with provincial branding, [creating] a smoother transition from province to region [and] leveraging initiatives at both levels."

    To streamline marketing efforts and create recognizable messages for international travellers, Tourism Northern Ontario is rebranding to Destination Northern Ontario to match provincial and national destination marketing organizations.

    David: "Working on the product side [...] right now, when we look at tourism in Northern Ontario specifically (which may differ from some of the larger municipalities in the province), the vast majority of our [tourism] products are unbranded. There’s huge opportunities for us to work with the industry to increase the quality of our products and experiences, and our destination community itself."

    To accomplish this, Tourism Northern Ontario has utilized best practices from Atlantic Canada to develop Tourism Excellence North (TEN), a program designed to help operators develop tourism products and enhance visitor experiences, among other business solutions.

    David: "We’ve worked with FedNor, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) to do an assessment and review of some of the development programs that have been in place for a number of years on Canada’s east coast.

    "We’ve just completed a pilot on that, and now we’re looking to take broad-based programming and fine-tune it for our sectors, whether it’s angling or snowmobiling or cultural products. We’re working with industry to make sure our product experiences exceed customer expectations, and that they resonate with consumers.

    "We want to be successful because we’re a destination of choice, and not because of the exchange rate with the US dollar. That means a lot of training, for both operators and their employees."

    The TEN program is also nominated for the Tourism Industry Awards of Excellence’s Tourism Innovator of the Year!

    Marty: "We feel [the TEN program] is bringing the quality of product in the province up to a level where we can market it worldwide, and be confident that anybody coming from anywhere is going to be pleased with the tourism experiences they came to Northern Ontario for."

    Tourism Northern Ontario’s current priorities also include working on the creation of an access-to-capital program for Northern Ontario tourism businesses. In addition, the RTO is preparing for its annual conference, the Northern Ontario Tourism Summit.

    Marty: "We have our annual Summit coming up in November, in Sault Ste. Marie this year. We get very good representation and very good attendance, we bring together matters important to the industry, and we have lots of breakout sessions and workshops. It’s both a social event for people to meet their counterparts in the industry, and an educational [experience] where attendees can [learn new insights]. We try to figure out what’s needed, and then provide sessions according to those needs."


    What is one piece of advice you would give to an organization that wants to get involved in advocacy initiatives with TIAO?

    David: "Be informed, and do the research so that [your asks are] evidence-based and not anecdotal. Until we actually do that research or in-depth analysis, our perceptions might be off—or what might seem like an issue might not actually be an issue. Also always be able to come to the table with suggestions on how to address the issue."

    Marty: "Know all your facts, and do all the research to make sure what you have is accurate and timely. Then try to present it in as cohesive a manner as you can, to reach whichever [goal] you’re trying to achieve.

    “I think advocacy sometimes gets a bad name, but it’s very important. We need to yell out just how important tourism is to this province and to this country, and how big it could actually be in the future as it continues to grow, modernize, change and reflect what people want. It’s such an important industry, and it’s important to keep bringing it forward so that everybody knows.”

    Thank you to Tourism Northern Ontario for being TIAO's Member of the Month for September, and for speaking with us about tourism in our province's largest geographical region! #TourismFamily


  • GBC is home to the inaugural TIAO Student Member Chapter see more

    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!

    August Member of the Month: George Brown College

    This month we talked to Donna Lee Rosen, Professor, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, George Brown College, and TIAO Student Chapter Ambassadors Kris Campbell, Eric Snow and Virginia Varga via email.

    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.

    Donna: "The School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at George Brown College (GBC) hosts one of Canada’s top tourism programs, developing tourism professionals that will aid in minimizing the projected deficit in tourism HR.

    "In addition to academic expertise, students at GBC are fortunate to have the management team’s support for the development of the inaugural TIAO Student Chapter. This gives our students additional opportunities to learn and understand the reality of the current tourism landscape.

    "Participation in workshops and other TIAO initiatives also allows students to have a voice in the industry they are being educated to become a part of. The incredible real-life connection between the theory all programs offer and the application the TIAO Student Chapter members have the option of being immersed in is priceless."

    The TIAO Student Chapter at George Brown College represents the school’s hospitality and tourism students within both the institution and the association. The chapter actively promotes TIAO, and creates events catering to fellow students’ interests in their industry. An example of is a panel discussion organized last winter, which featured several tourism professionals discuss their individual fields and careers, in addition to their achievements and challenges faced along the way.


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    Donna: "George Brown College became a TIAO Member in 2017.  The association approached the college to discuss developing student chapters for TIAO at universities and colleges across Ontario, which I felt was amazing opportunity for our students."

    Eric: "My membership with TIAO began in June 2017, when we launched the GBC Student Chapter.  I was excited to be part of this partnership from the beginning, and was equally thrilled to be getting actively involved in Ontario’s tourism industry."

    Kris: "I joined TIAO as an official ambassador in January 2018. I joined after Eric came to one of my classes to discuss TIAO and how important the association is to our industry for promotion and advocacy."

    Virginia: "I joined the TIAO student chapter in January 2018, and what an experience it has been! TIAO has given me the opportunity to visualize myself as part of the tourism industry, and also view the industry from a unique perspective—exactly what I was looking for."


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Donna: "The TIAO team has been stellar in its support of all the student initiatives that have come up in the name of the chapter. They’re very generous with their time and expertise, sharing with students in presentations, attending meetings and chapter-related events. Students have also been invited to workshops that would not have been available to them otherwise.

    "Through George Brown’s relationship with TIAO, students can experience first-hand how theories learned in class are relevant in real life situations. They get real-time exposure to tourism industry businesses, processes and issues, and can offer input for current challenges where their opinions are heard and valued! This brings an extraordinary level of experience to their learning process, developing a level of confidence, leadership expertise and personal growth that cannot be duplicated in any classroom or one-off field trip.

    "TIAO student membership benefits are also ongoing—students can get as much as they want out of it once they commit to participating."

    Eric, Kris & Virginia: "Our TIAO partnership has created a pathway for students to engage directly with organizations in the industry. TIAO partners have direct access to new talent entering the industry, and our Student Chapter members have a chance to see the inner workings of a variety of companies in a range of fields."

    "TIAO has had a tremendous impact for our organization by allowing students to get a perspective on how the tourism industry works. The Student Chapter at George Brown provides a space for students to apply their own knowledge, and bridge the gap between theory and real-life industry activity.

    "As students we’ve been exposed to more events and industry professionals then we ever thought we’d encounter while being school, and these opportunities have definitely enriched our learning experience at George Brown."


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Donna: "The level of involvement that’s offered to students, as well as the expertise shared. Students’ connection and communication with the provincial organization that speaks for the industry they are working hard to be part of makes students feel accepted and valued.

    "Support from the TIAO team and the benefits provided to GBC tourism students are immeasurable. There’s so much that can be developed through the creation of the Student Chapter, the learning doesn’t stop!"

    Eric, Kris & Virginia: "We like the fact that a provincial organization is taking interest in the students who will be the future of tourism in Ontario. It’s a terrific chance for us to learn from our industry partners, and to have our fresh new ideas heard."

    Kris: "I also personally enjoy how passionate TIAO is about building up the next generation of leaders within the tourism industry through their support of our student-run initiatives at school. After attending the “Tourism Mega Event” in Ottawa this past May, I got to witness first-hand how their advocacy impacts our industry, and it inspired me as to what type of leader I want to be."


    What are you working on right now?

    Donna: "I am currently working with TIAO to build a method of accreditation that can be awarded to student chapter ambassadors, in addition to students that embrace their TIAO memberships by being involved. Working with students to keep the TIAO Student Chapter and membership process sustainable has also been a focus for the chapter, among other special projects." 

    Eric, Kris & Virginia: "The GBC Student Chapter is looking ahead to the new semester, and planning activities to get our new students involved in TIAO. We also have a few social activities in the works to engage our TIAO partners, and encourage students to connect with others in the tourism industry.

    "We plan to have another industry panel discussion, where we have individuals from different sectors of the industry come in to share personal experiences, and answer questions students have about working in tourism and hospitality. This gives students a chance to further explore their future options and deepen their understanding of career possibilities, as well as create a positive networking environment."

    Many thanks to Donna, Eric, Kris and Virginia for answering our questions! We wish them all the best of luck in the upcoming school year and their future endeavours.

  • Learn about the services SÉO can provide for Ontario's tourism industry see more

    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!

    June Member of the Month: Société Économique de l'Ontario (SÉO)

    This month we talked to Martin Lacelle, Economic Development Director, and Isabelle de Bruyn, Tourism Manager at SÉO.

    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.

    Martin: “Our mandate as an organization is to help promote and service Francophone businesses, or offer different niche types of services in the French language.

    “For example, in Ottawa, it’s easier to find French services. But going out to Toronto, or Southwestern Ontario, it can be complicated just to get a business support—coaching for marketing, for example. We help people and businesses on the ground find the services that they need for different niche markets.

    “There’s a lot of work that we do in terms of youth entrepreneurship and youth engagement, [in addition to] coaching and mentorship. We also work in terms of succession planning solutions, green [and sustainability] solutions, [etc.].”

    Tourism is one of the main niche sectors that SEO works with to provide a variety of French-language services.

    Martin: “We know that visitor markets are looking for French-language services in Ontario, especially Francophone [travel markets]. We want to make sure that when they come to Ontario, [visitors] feel comfortable with the language of their choice—whether French or English—and that they can have a great experience.” 


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    SEO has been a TIAO Member for one year.

    Isabelle: “Having a broad mandate for tourism, we decided that [SEO should be] a member of a [prominent] sector association.”

    Martin: “As a provincial organization, [TIAO] made sense for us.”

    Isabelle: "TIAO was an obvious [choice] to be a part of. Working with the tourism industry, we need to understand the issues that are at stake. For us, being a member shows that we are serious about what we do."

    Martin: "I think [TIAO and SEO] have many of the same priorities. Workforce shortage [for example] is an issue not necessarily only for [tourism], but for all Francophone markets."

    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Isabelle: “We saw the possibility for collaborating on projects tgorther. For us, [becoming a TIAO Member showed] we were serious about what we want to do in support of the tourism industry."

    Isabelle and Martin also mentioned that exposure at TIAO events was also a benefit of association membership.

    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Martin cited networking events and opportunities for partnership and collaboration.

    Isabelle’s favourite thing about TIAO is the weekly newsletter, and other information that TIAO provides about tourism in Ontario.


    What are you working on right now?

    Isabelle: “We’ve been working on the Route Champlain for three years with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport."

    Stemming from its work on the Route Champlain, SEO has also been instrumental in writing a three-year Francophone tourism strategy for the province.

    Coming up in September, SEO is also hosting a conference focused on sustainable tourism called Ecorismo. Hosted in partnership with François-Tourisme-Consultants (from France), the event is focussed on educating operators on how to reach markets in an eco-friendly manner. The conference will take place September 10 and 11, 2018 at the Westin Ottawa.


    We also talked with Martin and Isabelle about Francophone tourism development in Ontario, including the importance of having market-ready tourism products in both official Canadian languages. It was a great conversation! Thank you to SÉO for being TIAO's Member of the Month for June.

  • Take a walk down memory lane and discover TIAO's 2019 Members of the Month. TIAO thoroughly enjoyed interviewing a new member every month and is looking forward to keeping the tradition alive in 2020.

  • Haddas Lederman posted an article
    Learn more about TIAO's November Member of the Month, Global Payments Canada. see more

    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!

    Member of the Month: Global Payments Canada 

    This month we spoke with Chris Baron, Senior Vice President, Sales at Global Payments Canada

     Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    “Global Payments provides financial technology services globally to over 3.5 million customer locations in 100 countries. As the leader of the sales organization, my responsibility is to oversee the sales strategy and implementation for all new sales, as well as the sales force platform. Many of our merchants today are in the tourism industry – whether restaurants, hotels, attractions – and rely on Global Payments to deliver a sound and secure payment or software solution.”

    Serving the Business Community:

    “One of the appeals of working with a provincial organization is having the access to a member-base that is very much in touch with the market. We feel that in order to provide solutions that move the market forward, we need to be in touch not only with partners and members alike, but specifically with individuals in Ontario to understand what Ontarians as consumers and as businesses need. I always prefer to listen first and act second. Working with a provincial organization allows us to have our ear to the ground and understand locally what is it that members and merchants alike need from an organization in an industry like ours today, as well as in into the very near future.”


    How long have you been a TIAO Partner and why did you join?

    Global Payments has been a TIAO Partner since 2017. 

    “We have been a partner for three years and have participated in three summits. The first summit we participated in was 2017 in Niagara on a panel, and 2018 and 2019 as a provider of marketplace data. The answer is simple – we joined because we see value in working with the industry and understanding where the needs are today and in the future. Consumer confidence drives spend, and that spend is driven through businesses every day . As someone that worked in the tourism industry for many years before my time at Global Payments, I feel and have been able to convey to my peer group at Global Payments, that we can gain insights in working with TIAO so that we can better serve the business community.”


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    “We can’t provide insights and solutions to the market – whether it be retail, oil and gas, hotel, restaurant, or the tourism sector as a whole – unless we regularly speak to members.”

    “Everyday members in each of these verticals rely on a payment solution. Everyone needs to be get paid – which has evolved into data and analytics – this is one of the reasons why we started this partnership with TIAO. Several years ago many Canadian merchants, some of them TIAO Members, brought a need to Global Payments and to me for analytics and a competitive insight in a more structured format. We looked at all of our solutions around the world and implemented one and brought it to Canada. It helped merchants [including TIAO Members] understand how they’re performing against the aggregated competitive market. We just happen to call it Global Analytics. This solution share exercise led Global Payments as the leader in Canada for sharing this type of data and helped us in the market with data intelligence.”

    “Seeing data is one thing; interpreting it is another. That’s where you turn data into intelligence. We would not have been able to do that if not for the feedback, involvement, and conversations with the market and with TIAO members. That is yet another reason why we find it important to partner and be a member of TIAO - to make sure that we are providing those solutions and listening to the market.” 


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Chris pointed to the openness of the membership as his favourite thing about TIAO.

    “I have been fortunate in the last three years to meet many members – whether it be at the Summit or working with merchants within our own portfolio that may be members, and TIAO members have a strong motivation to collaborate. It shows in their interest with conversations of products that we have – specific to spend patterns, and not to mention – they’re really nice people.”


    What are you working on right now?

    “Just last month we announced the completed merger with TSYS (Total Systems) – forming what we call – a premier pure play payments technology company with an extensive scale and unmatched global reach. The combined company [Global Payments Inc.] will provide innovative payments and software solutions to approximately 3.5 billion, predominately small to mid-size merchant locations, servicing over 1300 financial institutions across more than 100 countries, and enabling digital interactions with over 600 million card holders globally. This is a very exciting time within our industry and we feel that this merger puts us in a leading position in the integrated payments space, which plays right into the tourism and hospitality market where there’s a preponderance of innovative payment solutions.”

    “TSYS exposure brings 50 vertical markets that have complimentary solutions, which we will have available and have access to even within the Canadian market, as well as e-commerce and omni channel businesses within the United States and globally. The combined company will also benefit from TSYS’ payment facilitation, and in addition Global Payments extensive acquiring operations processing side in 31 countries outside of the United States will enable significant cross selling opportunities with TSYS’ issuer business solution internationally. What that means is for the first time we will have access to issuer data. That will give us visibility into what you and I as consumers do and what our choices are and what our transactional spend from a cardholder perspective is.”

    “For the last two years we have been working with TIAO to provide the card processing data from the merchant side. This consumer and issuer solution business will provide us that exposure and developing business to business solutions and enhanced data and analytics to the market and specifically for TIAO members. This is a very exciting time for us right now.”

    “It is our goal to extract domestic information from the approximately 80% of issuers that the TSYS brand issues for in the Canadian market. As we look at our share within the Canadian business, our acquiring share, in addition to the issuing share will give us complimentary visibility into that: domestic spend. Historically, it has been international travelers spending within Ontario – our goal is to look at domestic spend into domestic businesses.”

    Read the Travel and Destination Analytics - Ontario (2019) by clicking here. 


    What is the one piece of advice that you would give an organization that wants to work with TIAO?

    "Listen first and act second. I feel it’s important to listen to clients, partners, and the market alike. Only then can we make a difference together. If not, you’re commoditized and reduced to white noise.”


    Thank you to Chris for explaining Global Payments’ role in supporting the Ontario tourism industry, for sharing support for TIAO, and for being our member of the month for November!


  • Learn more about TIAO's August Member of the Month, Centennial College. see more

    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!

    Member of the Month: Centennial College 

    This month we talked to Joe Baker, Dean at Centennial College, School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts, and Michael Bertuzzi, Professor at Centennial College, School of Hospitality, Tourism, and Culinary Arts. 

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    Joe: “We represent Centennial College’s School of Hospitality, Tourism, and Culinary Arts. We have two thousand students a year studying tourism specific programs. We are Canada’s most internationally diverse post secondary institution, which means we have more international students than any other institution in the country. This also means that we educate a lot of newcomers as they enter their careers in the tourism sector in Ontario.”

    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    Centennial College has been a TIAO Member since 2014.

    Joe: “I have been Dean for five years and as soon as I took over as Dean at Centennial I established a membership with TIAO because I wanted our programs to be informed by the immediate needs of our industry. I also wanted to ensure that our associations had a lot of voice when it comes to joining our program advisory committees and giving us strategic advice, because our core mission is to prepare the future workforce of the Ontario tourism industry, and there’s no better way to do that than to be informed by our industry associations.”


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Joe and Michael spoke to connecting with industry as a major source of value for Centennial College and its students.

    Joe: “The value of TIAO is a unified voice representing the tourism industry from across Ontario.”

    Michael: “Since our focus is on education that meets the needs of industry and helps provide the workforce that will support the success and growth of the industry in Ontario, being a member of TIAO is one of the most invaluable ways that we can stay connected to our industry partners. By partnering with TIAO, be it the fortunate opportunity for students on work integrated learning, attending TIAO events or hosting TIAO for events, it helps broaden students’ understanding of the opportunities in the industry and the needs of the industry. It has quite pointedly resulted in students better understanding where they can go in their career and being more ambitious in their pursuit of opportunities.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Joe pointed to TIAO’s willingness to be involved in education as his favourite thing about TIAO.

    Joe: “Whether we have TIAO Members on our Program Advisory Committees, TIAO leaders as guest lecturers, or TIAO as collaborators on workshops and forums for our students to become better informed about the industry, we have always experienced a reciprocal partnership with TIAO. When industry associations and education institutions can work together, we have a much higher likelihood of shared success, which really is all about strengthening the tourism industry across Ontario – not only from a revenue generating perspective but most importantly developing the labour pool that supports the tourism industry in Ontario. Building the workforce of the future is in everyone’s best interest.”


    What are you working on right now?

    Joe and Michael discussed two programs that were recently re-vamped (Hospitality and Tourism Administration and Tourism Management) and one program (Food Tourism) that was recently launched to align industry trends and employment in the tourism sector across Canada.

    Michael: “Our three-year Hospitality and Tourism Administration program has a 50+ year history and it’s unique in its depth. The program in 2019 is revitalized following a three-year extensive research project to ensure that it continues to be our signature program. Our two-year Tourism Management diploma was re-launched for 2019 with a focus that we have worked closely with organizations such as TIAO and Tourism HR Canada to ensure that the program speaks to the needs of the industry in Canada. Historically the program was more focused on outbound and travel services, and it has been revitalized to link to the needs of the sectors within Ontario. Our Food Tourism program is an exciting post grad certificate for people who have already completed an area of study. It’s entering its second year and with food being one of the largest areas of spend and the largest area of employment within the tourism industry, as well as a major motivator of travel, this program uniquely brings together our focus on hospitality, tourism, and culinary arts in a way that helps students really distinguish themselves.”

    Joe: “For all three of our tourism programs that have been completely revitalized they also have three brand new hires, plucked from industry [Professor Michael Bertuzzi, Professor Dorothy Ward, and Professor Susan Kim] to re-develop and deliver those programs, to match the needs of industry from an employment perspective, and to deliver the skills that our students will need to have successful careers in tourism. As we were going through the process of program revitalization, we also revitalized our school structure. We now have a food and tourism studies department with a dedicated chair, Suzanne Caskie, who just recently completed her Masters of Gastronomic Tourism. When we say this school is invested in supporting the tourism industry with the future workforce, that’s not hyperbole, we really did put our money where our mouth is to make sure that our students are prepared to become the future leaders of the tourism industry in Ontario.”


    What your biggest piece of advice to students that want to join the tourism and hospitality industry? 

    Michael: “The biggest piece of advice that we give students when they’re asking about their future in hospitality and tourism is a combination of understanding that the breadth, scope and extent of where they can go with the industry is unlimited and to get started on that journey, any and all experiences that they can find for themselves are crucial to getting on a successful career path in the industry. We work very hard to promote things like volunteer opportunities, part-time jobs, summer jobs, and work-integrated learning on campus and off campus, to really make sure that students understand that their first day in the tourism industry is not right after they graduate but it’s the day they start studying. We really try to focus students on the concept of experiential education, working with industry as part of their studies [all of Centennial’s tourism programs have a work-integrated component to them], and understanding that wherever they start in the industry there’s a very wide range of places that they might end up, and as long as they work with passion, they will continue to be successful on that journey.”


    Thank you to Joe and Michael for explaining Centennial College's role in the Ontario tourism industry, for sharing support for TIAO, and for being our member of the month for August!

  • Learn more about TIAO's July Member of the Month, Smart Serve Ontario. see more

    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!

    Member of the Month: Smart Serve Ontario 

    This month we spoke with Richard Anderson, Executive Director at Smart Serve Ontario, to learn more about how Smart Serve is advocating for a safer and healthier Ontario. 

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    “Smart Serve Ontario was established in 1995, and is recognized across Canada as a premier program. Our program is authorized by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) as the sole provider of the Responsible Alcohol Beverage Sales & Service Training Program.”

    “We have a staff of 11 and we manage the program that currently trains approximately 100,000 people a year, and certainly with the modernization of services in Ontario, those numbers will likely go up.”

    “The program is part of the curriculum across most school boards in Ontario. We have also built the Smart Serve program into the curriculum at a lot of colleges and universities across Ontario that have hospitality, culinary, or tourism programs.”

    “As a charitable organization, we take the proceeds from the sale of our program and we support charitable causes through bursaries and scholarships at 22 different colleges and universities. We also have a division called ‘DrinkSmart’, which is specifically focused on campuses to address the issue of binge drinking and educate students on proper consumption.”

    “As we’re approaching our twenty fifth anniversary next year, it’s worthy to note that Smart Serve’s price point hasn’t changed since its inception. It was $34.95 when the program launched and it’s still the same today - we’re committed to always keeping it at that level. Even when the government began selling alcohol in grocery stores, we provided the retail component of our program free to current Smart Serve trained people. This is a continuous example of our commitment to support training.” 

    Role Within Ontario’s Tourism Industry:

    “We see clearly with changes in regulations, that there’s an even greater need to be aware of service issues and be aware of the various challenges that are attached with serving alcohol. With tourism, alcohol is a key component to it, and we know about the social challenges attached to alcohol [such as health issues], but at the end of the day front line service providers have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders and we want to ensure that they are prepared, aware, and knowledgeable of what their role is in serving alcohol.”

    “We know that liability today is a big challenge for anyone that sells or serves alcohol, so we want to continue to educate them. We know that when it comes to the tourism industry, good, and fun times is attached, and we believe that there is a really good balance between the social responsibility and enjoyment factor. Though educating people in safe and responsible service, we support the industry in ensuring that their customers have a good time.”


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    Smart Serve has been a TIAO Member since November 2010. 

    “I have been with Smart Serve for two years, and when I first joined I had the opportunity to review our partnerships and look at the ones that made sense. There was no question that being partnered with an organization like TIAO – one that is very welcoming and supportive, great at connecting me to our partners to help them navigate regulations [most recently cannabis regulation changes] was beneficial to Smart Serve.”


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    “Through being a TIAO Member, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a lobby day [Tourism Day at Queen’s Park], which was new for me and allowed me to learn a great deal.”

    “Since education is a huge focus to what we do, TIAO helps support getting us into some of the more rural markets that maybe don’t always hear our message but can hear TIAO’s message, so it’s important to be attached there.”


    If you had to give one piece of advice to someone that wanted to get involved in advocacy, what would you recommend?

    “I would say that there is a lot of people that don’t believe that advocacy works and I can say first-hand in my connection to TIAO and lobby days, that your voice really does make a difference. Don’t believe that your one voice can’t make a difference, because you can and you can do this by being involved with an organization like TIAO.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Richard pointed to the connections that TIAO provides as his favourite thing about TIAO.

    “TIAO Members are directly the clients that use our program, that deal with liability issues, that sell, serve, and handle, so it’s the right place for us to be to have direct conversations with our ‘client’ to understand their concerns and for us to understand how to best support them.”

    “There are really supportive and knowledgeable people in this industry, that all understand Smart Serve and the impact that it has on their organization. Something that we have learned, is that knowledge of Smart Serve, and the responsibility to take that training program is very high in Ontario.”


    What are you working on right now?

    Online Proctoring:

    “We’re the only Canadian online alcohol training program that does proctoring. One of the changes we are making to our in-class facilitated courses is the requirement to complete a paper test. We would like to filter them through the online proctored test. This will ensure that everyone is meeting the same levels of standards and we can ensure that they get certified a lot quicker.”

    Importance of Re-Certification:

    “We have always been a strong believer that re-certification is very important in Ontario. When we do a scan of Canada, most certifications require re-training. We continue to work with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and the government, and we’re hopefully that they support our view that re-certification is important. We see that on the horizon to support responsible service.”

    Refreshed Program:

    “There is no question that this has been a main focus of our organization – it has been a 2+ year journey in working with our partners, coordinating the updated information, getting updated information from government [such as new cannabis regulations], and when you put that all together, it was time for an update of our program.”

    Learn more about the Smart Serve Ontario training program:


    “DrinkSmart is a program operated by Smart Serve Ontario that is expected to be on over 25 campuses in Ontario this year. DrinkSmart’s goal is to build partnerships with every post-secondary institution across Ontario.”

    “DrinkSmart implements awareness campaigns as it relates to responsible drinking on campus and provides a toolkit to partners, the schools that we work with [including TIAO Members Centennial College, Conestoga College, and Humber College], to engage with students. The engagement piece is really about educating students and giving them simple tips [on things like what a standard drink is] that they can use if they are partaking in drinking alcohol.”

    “DrinkSmart’s organic messaging is actually developed for students by students. We work with students through their co-op placements to develop messaging that are brought to campuses.”

    Click here to discover more about DrinkSmart.


    Thank you to Richard for explaining Smart Serve Ontario’s role in the Ontario tourism industry, for sharing support for TIAO, and for being our member of the month for July!

  • Haddas Lederman posted an article
    Learn more about TIAO's September Member of the Month, CrowdRiff. see more

    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!

    Member of the Month: CrowdRiff 

    This month we talked to Amrita Gurney, Vice President of Marketing & Community at CrowdRiff, where she leads a team responsible for brand content, product marketing and demand generation. When Amrita joined CrowdRiff over three years ago there were 15 employees and currently there are 110 employees. 

    CrowdRiff is an AI-powered visual content marketing platform that is purpose-built for the travel and tourism industry. CrowdRiff’s platform combines UGC image discovery, digital asset management and seamless content delivery, enabling marketing teams to harness the power of visuals at scale. CrowdRiff connects brands and consumers alike with captivating imagery that drives global travel and tourism. Recently, CrowdRiff was named 40 out of 400 on The Globe and Mail's list of Canada's Top Growing Companies

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    “CrowdRiff is a technology company that works specifically with travel, tourism, and hospitality brands. Our focus really is to help marketing teams, apps, and brands become a lot smarter about the way they use visual content. We believe that visuals are the most influential type of content that will attract travelers to a destination and help them choose what to experience when they’re in a destination.”

    What Sets CrowdRiff Apart?

    “We are the only company that does what we do that exclusively focuses on travel and tourism. We understand our customers better than someone who’s not working in the industry, and I think even our product itself has the benefit from learning from all of the data that we can gather from the way over 700 brands are using our product.”

    CrowdRiff & Community:

    “We found that our community has grown very organically and I think this is something very special about travel and tourism. But more and more, even just as marketers, or no matter what your profession is, I think we all want to have a group of people that we feel have some shared interests. So for us, we have really seen our community flourish and we consider our community to be any marketer working in tourism who is interested in telling great visual stories and being successful at their jobs, whether they’re a customer of ours or not.”

    “The reason that we’ve been more purposeful in thinking about community is that we believe that the entire industry can really benefit from collaboration and sharing of knowledge. In saying this, it was kind of serendipitous that this year we reached a point that we have over 700 customers in travel and tourism. Anecdotally we see that there’s been a lot of conversations going on between our customers, and we’re hoping to help facilitate more conversations, best practices, and knowledge sharing amongst people that want to tell great visual stories and be great marketers.”


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    Crowdriff has been a TIAO Member since August 2017.

    “We joined because we really see the benefits of these associations around Canada, around the world, and in Ontario. As Toronto is our hometown, we really wanted to support the tourism community in Ontario.”


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Amrita spoke to the education element that TIAO provides and the opportunities for networking as a major source of value.

    “We really believe that associations like TIAO provide great education and provide an opportunity for members to meet each other. We also really value TIAO events where we have an opportunity to meet potential customers and an opportunity to get on stage to share what we have learned in our time working with tourism businesses.”


    What are you working on right now?

    SEE 2019 - CrowdRiff’s Conference for Travel and Tourism Marketers:

    “Our inaugural CrowdRiff conference is on November 8-9, 2019 at Hotel X. We are super excited to be at this location [for the conference] as the hotel itself is a great example of a brand that has really carved out something special in Toronto. A lot of our attendees will be coming from outside of Toronto and this will be a great opportunity to showcase Toronto and Ontario to our customers from around the world.”

    “The purpose of our conference is not just about CrowdRiff, it’s really to give people an opportunity to meet each other and to help us all as marketers level up in what we do and move our industry forward in whatever way we can play a part in doing that. We are excited to have Rafat Ali, the founder of Skift, as our opening keynote speaker. We have speakers from around the world [including National Geographic and a local company called Peace Collective] that are all going to be coming together to share how all of us as marketers can tell better visual stories.”

    Learn more about the conference here.

    Not Just DMO’s:

    “We really grew up working with specifically just with DMO’s, but over the course of the last few years we’ve come to meet a lot of people from other parts of the tourism sector [including hotels, resorts, cruise lines, airlines, tour operators]. We’re excited to be working with not just DMO’s but providing a product to any tourism business that exists that wants to reach today’s travellers.”

    “We believe that there’s a lot more opportunity for the tourism ecosystem to work more collaboratively. I think we’re all going after, not the same traveler, but we’re all trying to achieve the goal of getting travelers to come to our destinations, experience what we have to offer, stay in our hotels, and spend money. So with all this in mind, we’re working on ways to help enable more of that collaboration, specifically around marketing.”


    If you had to give a piece of advice to another organization as to why they should get involved in the community or get involved in advocacy initiatives, what would you recommend?

    “I would say that collectively we can do more together than we can individually. There are so many people around Ontario who have accomplished great things in tourism and have really made Ontario a great place for people to visit and live in. So rather than re-inventing the wheel, I think we can really benefit from learning from each other and seeing each other as collaborators and not necessarily as competitors. I think an association like TIAO really makes it so much easier to find those like-minded people and to be able to foster those relationships.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    “We truly believe that associations like TIAO provide great education and provide an opportunity for members to meet each other.”


    Thank you to Amrita for speaking with us about the value of community, for sharing CrowdRiff’s support for TIAO, and for being our member of the month for September!


  • Haddas Lederman posted an article
    Learn more about TIAO's June Member of the Month, Great Wolf Lodge's reasons for howling. see more

    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!

    Member of the Month: Great Wolf Lodge

    This month we talked to Keith Simmonds, Vice President & General Manager, at Great Wolf Lodge and TIAO Board Director.   

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    A destination in and of itself, Great Wolf Lodge has been open since 2006, and along with taking fun seriously, has a mission of creating family traditions one family at a time. “The resort offers a unique family experience that provides an excellent staycation, with an average stay of 1.7 nights, for kids of all ages and their parents.”

    “Our company is owned by the Jim Pattinson Group and out franchisor, Great Wolf Resorts, has 16 hotels in the United States [with separate ownership]. With Ripley Entertainment, the Pattison Group already had a number of businesses in Niagara Falls on Clifton Hill and saw the area as a very strong tourism location. We had some synergies in the area and that sprung Great Wolf Resorts’ interest in the area to provide a unique offering in the province of Ontario.”

    Choosing Niagara Falls as the location for Great Wolf Lodge was a strategic decision to be in the right spot with the right target audience, and the right employee base [750 employees currently work for Great Wolf Lodge].”


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    Great Wolf Lodge has been a TIAO Member since 2009.

    “Because our ownership and our company only has one hotel and wanted a stronger affiliation with and understanding of the tourism industry in Ontario, joining TIAO was an easy decision to better position our organization and to better participate in the conversation.”


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Keith spoke to the education element that TIAO provides as not only a major source of value for him personally, but for Great Wolf Lodge as well.

    “Being a TIAO member has allowed Great Wolf Lodge to have closer exposure to the issues that we’re dealing with as an industry and as it relates to the property itself. Learning from other members and learning from the industry efforts on behalf of all of tourism has been very helpful on many levels.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Keith pointed to building relationships and working in collaboration as his favourite thing about TIAO.

    You can never learn everything by yourself and there are so many opportunities to learn with TIAO, whether it’s through TIAO’s Weekly Newsletter, or at the annual Ontario Tourism Summit, or at Tourism Day at Queen’s Park, you get a very clear understanding of what’s going on in the world around you regarding tourism.”


    What are you working on right now?

    “At Great Wolf Lodge, we believe in continuous improvement. We have a high degree of repeat visitation: over 40% of our guests have been there at least twice. We’re always looking for what’s new; what can we add that will bring folks back again, what can we add that will bring in new guests, and what can we add that makes our offerings more exciting. We are always considering opportunities to expand across the country where it makes sense.”

    “Over the years, we’ve added MagiQuest, Ten Paw Bowling, Scoops Kids Spa, Wolf Tail Slide, and next is our Timber Wolf Cottages that will be available starting June 28.”


    Timber Wolf Cottages:
    “There are 15 units which all have similar floor plans, a fully-equipped kitchen, gas fireplace, and large covered patios. Rustic is the word that we use to describe this new offering, as there is a minimal number of materials, making it feel like you’re at the cottage.”


    Giving Back to the Community:

    “We have a charitable giving committee, and what we accomplish through this arm of our operation is one of the most exciting things that we do. We have a unique ability to raise funds, whether it’s sponsoring a sports team or hosting a family dinner to raise money during the holiday season, being able to give back and connect with the community is very important to us. With 750 Wolf Pack members [Great Wolf Lodge employees], we’re touching so many different areas and being able to share experiences and build relationships in the Niagara region is vital to our operation.”

    “Over the past eleven years, we have raised over $1 million dollars through our annual charity car wash. We are always blown away by the support that we receive. The lineup for our car wash starts at 8:30pm the night before the event usually, we open the floodgates at around 8am, and its all said and done by 1pm.”

    “The support from the Wolf Pack, our guests and community partners to host fundraisers and special events for charity is incredible. We are always looking to support diverse family-related fundraising opportunities, both within the Niagara Falls region and the GTA, as well as across Ontario.”


    Thank you to Keith for explaining Great Wolf Lodge’s reasons for howling, for sharing support for TIAO, and for being our member of the month for June!