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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. 

     March 15, 2019
  • 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


     September 30, 2018
  • 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.

     August 31, 2018
  • Find out what's next for Canada's #1 gated attraction 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!

    July Member of the Month: Hornblower Niagara Cruises

    This month we talked to Mory DiMaurizio, General Manager at Hornblower Niagara Cruises.

    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.

    “Hornblower Niagara Cruises is a day one experience. People tend to come see us on their first day in town, whether it’s for the (daytime) Voyage to the Falls, or evening fireworks cruises. Some folks also [visit] the lower landing for food, drinks and live entertainment, which not a lot of locals know about.”

    Mory emphasized, however, that it’s the physical waterfalls themselves that truly bring people to Niagara to experience Hornblower cruises.

    “All of us have that natural wonder to be thankful for—we [organize] our amenities and attractions and hotels and everything around it to accommodate the people that come to Niagara Falls. It’s the environment, it’s the city, it’s Niagara as a destination that’s so important.”

    Nevertheless, Hornblower Niagara Cruises has certainly seen success since it began operations in 2014.

    “Our passenger count went from 1.6 million in our first year, to around 2.4 million this year. We’re really proud of the fact we’re Canada’s number one gated attraction in terms of visitation.”

    Hornblower has received prestigious accolades for its work, including an award for Green Tourism for a commitment to sustainable tourism, and a 2018 Travelers’ Choice Award from TripAdvisor. The organization has also expanded operations in Niagara Falls to include on- and off-water experiences.

    “We have a purpose-built vessel just for private charters—we see a lot of celebrities and VIPs make good use of that. And for the land-based side of things, we [host] weddings, bar mitzvahs, all kinds of celebrations and events on a regular basis. We’re really a multi-faceted site, not just a boat tour anymore.”

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

    Hornblower Niagara Cruises has been a TIAO Member since 2014.

    “We’re part of the tourism community. As such, it’s important for us to join organizations and associations such as TIAO so that we’re strategically aligned with them, as well as with other partners and significant stakeholders within our region.

    “We’re because of tourism. People aren’t coming to Niagara Falls for any other specific purpose than to enjoy the wonderful space that is here: the environment, the parks, the water. All of us attractions, hoteliers, retailers, entertainers, everybody else in town really capitalizes on the fact that we are a tourist destination, which is why it’s important for us to always be aligned and support tourism associations like TIAO so long as we continue to be successful here in Niagara Falls.”


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

    “It’s the gathering of information. When you get like-minded people together in associations, or at conferences [and] events—people striving to analyze the same information that you are—you can compare notes, compare experiences, get multiple data points and then seriously create your marketing and strategic plans on a go-forward basis by collaborating with TIAO and others.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Mory pointed to opportunities for networking, collaboration and information sharing as Hornblower’s favourite thing about TIAO.


    What are you working on right now?

    “One of the things that we’ve been working on this past year was the Hornblower Niagara Funicular. Before the elevator cars existed to get folks down to the lower landing at the bottom of the gorge, [the funicular] is what [transported them], 30 some odd years ago.

    “It was buried in the trees for quite a long time, decades. Working with the Niagara Parks Commission and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, we cleared the trees appropriately to make room for what would be a new funicular incline railway.

    “We created an old-but-new incline railway that’s been upgraded for capacity, is completely AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) compliant, and has all the bells and whistles of modern times built into it.”

    The Hornblower Niagara Funicular is enclosed in glass, showcasing 360-degree views of the Niagara Gorge. Groups or VIPs that ride the funicular will experience a new way of getting down into the gorge, as well as visually spectacular views while descending. The trip takes about three minutes.

    “It’s also a way for us to sustain the passenger growth that we’ve been experiencing for the last four years. The funicular has the same capacity as the four available elevator cars, so it represents our success going forward and the future of building the business.”

    Many thanks to Hornblower Niagara Cruises for being TIAO's Member of the Month for July, and to Mory for speaking with us during peak season! #TourismFamily

  • 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.

  • Find out what's coming up for Go Tours and Segway of 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!

    May Member of the Month: Go Tours / Segway of Ontario

    This month we talked to Jason Rizzuti, Managing Partner, Segway of Ontario and Aaron Binder, Chief Experience Officer, Go Tours

    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.

    Jason: “I’m responsible for pretty much everything. I’m managing partner, and Segway Grease Monkey—that’s my official title.”

    Aaron: “I do all the fun stuff: I talk to people, I get feedback, I talk to media and try to build new locations, like Ontario Place, which is launching in July.”

    Jason: “Go Tours is our tour and event business, and then Segway of Ontario [offers an equipment and vehicle] dealership, service, sales, all that kind of stuff.”

    Go Tours offers walking and Segway tours in Toronto’s Distillery District, school, bus and corporate tours and events in Toronto, and off-road Segway adventures at Hardwood Ski and Bike and Horseshoe Resort in Barrie. The organization has an equipment sales and distribution arm for Segway equipment and other vehicles, called Segway of Ontario.


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

    Go Tours has been a TIAO Member for about 18 months.

    Jason: “We’d known about TIAO for the longest time, then finally we decided ‘OK we have to join, we’ve been operating this many years, we have to join and be part of the membership.'”

    Aaron: “I think part of it was, having been a business in Ontario’s tourism community for 14 years now, we saw [an opportunity] to take leadership and help newer businesses in the tourism industry to develop themselves in our market, as well as other markets. There’s such a big pie to go around these days, that the more competition there is, the better it is for all of us. So we’re really hoping that through our membership with TIAO, we’re able to take that leadership role to the next step, and make it a little bit more official as well.”

    Jason: “When we first started, our very first customer was actually a construction worker that was working on site here [in the Distillery District]. And he just wanted to give it a go, it looked kind of cool. But we joined Tourism Toronto fairly early on, because we knew being part of a DMO would hopefully bring us some brand awareness for what we do. But it took a few years even after that to get more exposure, [first with] Tourism Toronto, then to join the Toronto Attractions Council, then Attractions Ontario, and then TIAO.

    “We slowly realized that it’s important to be part of the industry if you want to be in the industry. Every time I meet with other operators or attractions similar to our size, [I ask them if they’re] a member of TIAO or Attractions Ontario. And I say: ‘because if you’re not, I think you should be. As a small business it works for us, and we get value out of it.'

    “I think that’s important. It’s not only about taking, it’s about giving back to the industry and others that you see around you.”



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

    Jason: “One of the first things [is] the TIAO Newsletter. It’s nice to get a quick summary and snapshot every week, because there’s a lot of things that are happening in our industry, not only in our region but in the broader sense across the province and nationally. And it’s important to be made aware of them. There’s a lot of things I’ll forward [from the TIAO Newsletter] to a colleague of mine, because I didn’t know [about something] or [hadn’t] heard much about it. [For example], the new labour laws and things that have kicked in, and how they relate to tourism. So the newsletter is definitely an important part of it."**

    Jason also said that TIAO’s dissemination of industry event information, in addition to the association’s own provincial conference—the Ontario Tourism Summit—is a valuable part of Go Tours’s TIAO Membership. In addition, he referenced access to data and research as another valuable part of a TIAO Membership.

    Jason: “I may not have access to that information readily, or it might not come to my mind. But when it’s presented to me in a [weekly newsletter] or at an event, it [becomes digestible]. That’s why it’s important: I see the value, and it’s well worth it.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Jason: "The TIAO Newsletter. And Tourism Day at Queen’s Park."

    Aaron: “What I personally like most about TIAO is how well organized [the association is]. You have a great leadership team, any event you throw is done properly, any communication you put out is done properly, you’re easy to get to, and very quick to [respond to] any inquiries.”

    Jason: “[TIAO has] the best interests of the tourism industry [in mind]. Whether it’s helping to figure out the labour shortage, or being that champion for tourism on the government and legal side—that’s important. Without that, there’s a void. And not everybody realizes how important it is.”


    What are you working on right now?

    Aaron:This year, we're operating at our regular Barrie and Toronto locations. We're going into our 14th year in Toronto's Distillery District and our 10th year in Barrie. For 2018 in Barrie, we're emphasizing our tours at Hardwood Ski and Bike. They have absolutely gorgeous trails and views you simply can't get anywhere in Toronto. We're also excited to announce that we're opening another Toronto location this year at Ontario Place on Canada Day. We're a proudly Canadian-owned and operated small business, so this is a huge milestone for us.

    "The new tour at Ontario Place is extremely exciting because not only does it represent a new tour, but it represents a really cool new partnership with a very long-standing organization that is trying to reinvent itself right now, and it’s exciting to be a part of that. In the same way we were part of Horseshoe Valley's re-invention 10 years ago, and Hardwood Ski and Bike now, I think [the new installment of Segway tours is] going to be a really great way to create part of the new story for Ontario Place.”

    “We’ve done assessments there, and it’s going to be fantastic operation because the terrain is varied. It’s going to allow a little more speed and a little more terrain variance than what we have in the Distillery District.

    "Another really exciting thing is that Segway of Ontario has launched a number of new products in the last couple of years. Consumer products that are inexpensive, and are really fun to use. So we’re not just talking about new and exciting things with the tour company, but new and exciting things with the distribution and equipment company [as well]. We’re urging people to come down to our Distillery District location, make an appointment and try out some of our cool new vehicles."

    New products Segway of Ontario offers include mini-Segways and kick scooters!

    We also chatted with Jason and Aaron about workforce development, product development, rural tourism development and partnerships with other tourism businesses. It was an excellent conversation, and we thank Go Tours / Segway of Ontario for being TIAO's Member of the Month for May!

    **We absolutely love our members’ enthusiasm for the TIAO Newsletter, but you don’t actually have to be a TIAO Member to take advantage of this great resource! Subscribe here.

  • Find out more about the CTA, and how a TIAO Membership has benefitted their organization. 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!

    April Member of the Month: Culinary Tourism Alliance

    This month we chatted with Agatha Podgorski, Director of Community Engagement (over lunch at a Feast On® certified restaurant, no less!). President & CEO Rebecca Mackenzie contributed to the interview 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.

    Rebecca: We are the pioneers of developing food tourism in Ontario. The CTA (formerly the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance), came to exist to implement the 2005-2015 Ontario Culinary Tourism Strategy, commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

    "As experts in food tourism development, the CTA seeks to ensure that authentic food experiences become a significant economic driver for communities across Ontario, and a primary way for travellers to enrich their experience.”

    Agatha: “We essentially work on three main initiatives. [First,] we have a consulting arm that works globally to help destinations around the world at all scales undertake regionally specific, thoughtful and sustainable food tourism development. That can be the creation of an experience, an event or stakeholder engagement and education.

    “The second pillar we have is Ontario Culinary, our membership-based program. [We] support destination marketing organizations, regional tourism organizations, sector and commodity organizations and post-secondary institutions with development of food tourism products, storytelling around food identity in the province, and connecting directly with the people and places that make our food scene here in Ontario so rich and diverse.

    “[CTA’s third main initiative is] a food service certification program called Feast On® . We provide authentication, tools and resources for businesses claiming that they work with local food to grow and flourish. More importantly, we look at their books, we open them up, and make sure that they’re practicing what they preach, so that consumers can be sure they’re eating Ontario food, if that's what they’re after.

    “We look at how much [participating businesses are] spending on Ontario grown food. If they’re spending more than 25%, they get the certification. If they’re not, we provide introductions and resources for them to up their procurement. Ultimately, we want everyone to be using more local food.

    “We then build on that by introducing those people to the DMOs and RTOs who have the resources (both human and financial) to promote those experiences as the best and brightest in the province. It’s one thing to support big brands who are importing and doing mass-produced foods, but if you’re supporting restaurants with really unique experiences that are supporting local farmers, you’re supporting more and more layers of Ontario’s economy, and building capacity for places that might not necessarily have it otherwise.”


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

    The CTA became a TIAO Member in 2012. From 2012-2015, TIAO and CTA partnered to deliver their respective annual conferences. The two organizations also used to share office space.

    Rebecca: “We became a member because we value the work that TIAO does on behalf of the tourism industry--advocacy, industry education and the networking platform it provides.”

    Agatha: “We were working really hard to get in front of people in government that we needed to reach. We needed to make them realize that [culinary tourism and agritourism] needed to be a priority in a place like Ontario. Small business owners in food service and agriculture don’t have the time to make those kinds of connections, and do that kind of [advocacy] work. We needed someone who had valuable relationships, who could push our agenda on our behalf, and support us as we grew this in the province.”


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

    Agatha: “Originally, I think a big draw in why we wanted to get involved and work closer with [TIAO] was mentorship. We were executing a provincial strategy that was driven by destination marketing organizations who thought this was valuable, and needed guidance on how to get government more involved.”

    Rebecca: “It’s kept us in the loop and connected. We’ve had opportunities to leverage our membership with TIAO to increase awareness of food tourism, and food tourism development across Ontario. [Additionally, TIAO has] given us platforms to celebrate food tourism excellence both at their annual Summit as well as key events including Tourism Day at Queen's Park.”

    Agatha: “The active, constant access to resources and news in the provincial tourism industry is [also] big for us.

    “[TIAO] constantly having [its] ear to the ground, and knowing what’s happening helps us build our strategy for the year, and figure out what are the priorities for our regions and our stakeholders.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Rebecca: “How [the association stays] engaged, stays on top of all the current issues that the tourism industry is facing, brings solutions to us, and provides leadership.”

    Agatha: “The staff! Can we talk about how amazing and passionate the staff are? They go above and beyond, they’re always a pleasure.”


    What are you working on right now?

    Rebecca: “We’re wrapping up food tourism strategies for the City of Kawarthas, City of Sudbury and Algoma Country, and we're starting to work on projects in Kingston and Temiskaming. Our consulting work is keeping us busy in Banff & Lake Louise, the province of New Brunswick and overseas in Scotland, too!

    “We are constantly bringing new restaurants into the Feast On® certification program, and working to promote our Preferred Purveyors in the program too! We have Fishstock coming up May 14th at the University of Guelph in partnership with OceanWise, and Winestock on June 26th at George Brown College in partnership with VQA Wines of Ontario.”

    Thank you to the CTA for being TIAO's Member of the Month for April, and to Rebecca and Agatha for speaking with us! #TourismFamily 

    Ironically, neither Agatha nor Rebecca are included in the CTA team photo below :)

     April 30, 2018
  • Find out why the MTCC is a TIAO Member, and what the organization is currently focussed on. 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!

    March Member of the Month: Metro Toronto Convention Centre

    This month we chatted with Barry Smith, President and CEO, MTCC

     Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.


    Who are you and what do you do?

     The Metro Toronto Convention Centre is both Canada and Ontario’s largest convention centre.

     MTCC was one of TIAO’s first members!

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

    Organizations such as ours—which are involved in the meetings, conventions and trade show industries—depend on a good public policy framework to be successful in doing business.

    TIAO is the organization that spends most of its time (if not all of its time!) thinking about public policy initiatives that affect industry. Minimum wage, tips legislation, cost competitiveness, the hotel tax—all these things that create an environment that’s either competitive, or has negative impacts on business.

    Business conditions impacted by public policy are important to our [success]. Are we a cost competitive environment? Are we introducing new legislation that’s either an impediment to, or aiding and abetting the type of business we’re in? This is where we rely on TIAO as being a voice of our industry.

    MTCC also finds value in its TIAO membership via partnership opportunities with the association, for the benefit of our industry. For example, the convention centre actively supports TIAO’s Careers in Tourism Awareness Campaign.


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    The effectiveness of TIAO’s position as a voice for Ontario’s tourism industry. As an organization, TIAO is open and transparent in its positions. [The association] is clearly showing forward momentum of building [its] brand as an effective communicator, which is important to our industry.


    What are you working on right now?

    We work in a very competitive industry. There’s no doubt that many communities have come to recognize the economic benefit that comes from business events. So keeping our venue up to speed, contemporary and competitive to the marketplace—whether that be [through] technology, new space, raising the level of fit and finish, or providing new services that are expected in the marketplace—is clearly a focus of the management team. We put a lot of money back into the facility.

    The second thing we put a lot of focus on is working with our hotel partners and Tourism Toronto to bring more business to Toronto, whether it be international, American or domestic. Because [we’re in] a very competitive field, a lot of the industry’s collective weight is behind that—and we’re having great success. There’s no doubt that the industry right now is achieving record numbers—we, too, are achieving record numbers—[but] how do we continue that? How do we stay at a higher level of occupancy for a longer period of time?

    Lastly I would say we’re turning our mind to a longer-term future of what [type of] asset Toronto will need as we go forward, particularly as relates to the convention centre. Will an expanded convention centre make sense in Toronto? Will this building, which has a particular physical configuration, be improved by changing that? What other opportunities are there? So we’re turning our minds to what does that strategic vision look like, getting the right consulting expertise, comparing ourselves to other communities, really watch[ing] what’s happening, and what makes a city successful in the marketplace that we’re dominant in, which is conventions and business events..

    MTCC is also committed to workforce strategy and development within the tourism industry. The convention centre demonstrated this support by hosting the inaugural Careers in Tourism Symposium on March 26.

    Thank you to MTCC for being the March TIAO Member of the Month, and thank you to Barry Smith for speaking with us! #TourismFamily 

     March 29, 2018
  • Learn more about Attractions Ontario, one of TIAO's inaugural members 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!

    February Member of the Month: Attractions Ontario

    This month we chatted with the following members of the Attractions Ontario team: Troy Young, President & CEO; Phil Casey, Director of Business Development; Kate March, Director of Communications; and Kathrine Christensen, Chair of the Board of Directors.

     Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Who are you and what do you do? Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    Troy: “We are an industry trade association representing over 500 attractions, DMOs, RTOs and accommodations. We are predominantly a marketing organization that helps promote our members in a pan-provincial format. Our goal is to raise the [profile] of our members with the travelling public, both from Ontario and from outside the province.”

    Sourcing new benefits and partnership opportunities for association members is another big part of what the organization does.

    Phil: “We never try to be stagnant. We always try to add more benefits to being a member [and] working with us.”


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

    Troy: “We’ve been there right from the beginning—we were an inaugural TIAO Member. [We joined because] we believe in what TIAO is trying to do [regarding advocacy].

    “It’s good to have somebody acting as your collective voice, particularly in the government relations field. We do some government relations work on our own, but when it comes to issues that are going to affect the entire tourism industry, it’s better to have that one voice.”

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

    The Attractions Ontario team said that in general, TIAO’s advocacy work as the main source of value for their membership with the association.

    Kathrine: “It’s important [to be a member of an advocacy association such as TIAO], because Attractions Ontario is the conduit to hundreds of small tourism businesses in Ontario. These are businesses that aren't necessarily able to take the time and the money to interact closely [with government] on their own.

    “So having Attractions Ontario bring them information [from TIAO] and disseminate it—that’s the biggest value.”

    Katherine noted that the information-sharing relationship travels in the other direction as well.

    Kathrine: “The needs of the individual (small and large) attractions get funnelled to Attractions Ontario, and then comes back to TIAO in an aggregate form, that makes it beneficial [for everyone involved].”

    DYK: TIAO extends certain membership perks to members of associations that are also TIAO Members. For example, members of Attractions Ontario can also take advantage of affordable group benefit rates through TIAO’s partnership with Group Lockhart.

    What are you working on right now?

    Launched at the end of 2017, Phil has been orchestrating tourism information, education and development workshops in different regional tourism areas across the province. Organized in conjunction with the region’s respective RTO, Phil present opportunities for working with Attractions Ontario, the participating RTO, and also local DMOs when applicable. However, educating local businesses on their identity as tourism attractions is a big part.

    Phil: “One of the main focusses of our outreach [is] trying to explain to people that yes, you are an attraction. An attraction is anything that draws people to an area. It could be a forest, it could be a trail, it could be a restaurant, it could be a museum. Just because you don’t have a ticket counter doesn’t mean it’s not an attraction, [and] having to educate people on that is a big thing.

    "The goal is to [organize educational workshops across the Ontario], because the definition of tourism has changed, the definition of an attraction has changed, and we’re trying to make sure people know that.”

    In essence, Attractions Ontario workshops focus on “How to Tourism”—they tell attendees how they can get involved with Attractions Ontario, and also their local RTO and DMOs.

    Phil: “We’re trying to build the region up. The main goal is to show them who we are, increase awareness of what they can do, and how to work with people in their area.”

    Another initiative Attractions Ontario is working on (and that also launched last year) is the Blogger Program.

    Kate: “Influencers and bloggers are a really big deal right now. [Engaging them is] a great way to get a regular person out to your attraction, tweeting and instagramming the pictures of what they can experience [at your attraction, to their followers].

    “[Some influencers have] thousands and thousands of followers looking, and it’s an easy, cheap way for [Attractions Ontario members] to get their message out to an audience that [they] may not actually have right now.

    “We vet [the bloggers] and find them for the attractions [on our end], so it’s a great opportunity that a lot of our members are really enjoying.

    Kate manages a growing list of vetted bloggers and influencers that she recommends to produce content for various attractions. Members of Attractions Ontario can reach out to Kate to get involved, but the team also shares information about the program with new members, and as part of Phil’s outreach workshops. So far, not a single Attractions Ontario member that has participated in the Blogger Program has said they wouldn’t do it again.

    New for 2018, Attractions Ontario is embarking on a new partnership with Destination Ontario and TripAdvisor. Part of the partnership involves Attractions Ontario advertising on TripAdvisor through Destination Ontario. Additionally, a TripAdvisor representative will be speaking at Attractions Ontario’s AGM in May.

    Thank you to the Attractions Ontario team for being Februrary's TIAO Member of the Month #TourismFamily

     February 28, 2018
  • Get the scoop on Headwaters Tourism, TIAO's Member of the Month for January see more

    TIAO is featuring one of its members each month to share with the #TourismFamily what they do, and how they get involved with our association. Learn something new about your tourism industry colleagues, and see the different ways you can collaborate with us!

    January Member of the Month: Headwaters Tourism

    This month we chatted with Michele Harris, CEO of Headwaters 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.

    Headwaters Tourism is a destination marketing organization—we’re a not-for-profit that’s been around since 1994.

    We started out as a traditional visitor services supplier, but over the last seven or eight years, we’ve really had a paradigm shift in how we operate. We’ve moved away from simply providing visitor services, to a role in business and economic development, pushing tourism as a critical part of the economic development strategies of our partner municipalities.

    Geographically, we represent 2,534 kms2 of Ontario. About an hour northwest of Pearson International Airport, Headwaters has an interesting dynamic, in that we cross three different regions: Caledon (part of Peel Region), eight municipalities in Dufferin County, and the Town of Erin (part of Wellington County). Those municipalities came together back in 1994, because of the way visitors came to this collective area—travel patterns were similar, and [so was] product synergy.

    Right now we are funded by those municipalities at a rate of $1.52 per capita, so our operating budget is just a little over $200,000 a year. Our role has shifted; we have two core functions, or, we say, two core audiences. We have the visitor audience—we fancy ourselves storytellers and curators of content for the area. We position the voice of Headwaters as the voice of this quirky area to visitors from far and wide.

    On the other side, we are very much a business development organization as well. We work to help our businesses go further in their tourism development, [and] to develop stronger experiences, but also to move businesses that may not be in the tourism sphere—but have the availability to do so, or the potential to grow their business through tourism—move along that continuum.


    What initiatives are you working on right now?

    We continue to push our “Where Ontario Gets Real” brand. Part of our storytelling and content curation role is seeking out those interesting and compelling visitor experiences, as well as what we call our “faces of Headwaters”:  the embodiment of our Real Ontario brand promise. Every year in May we launch our new consumer marketing campaign—right now we’re working on developing that campaign and its content.

    We just hosted (in partnership with other destinations from across the province) a
    Rural Tourism Symposium. We’re trying to collaborate beyond our Headwaters borders, and work with our colleagues across the province who are doing great work. To describe the fundamental belief in what we do, we use the word “co-opetition”. If we share experiences, and all communicate back and forth with our tourism partners, we all raise the bar for tourism.

    From a product development point of view, we have a couple of things on the horizon. We’re working on trying to move into the cycling tourism sphere; this year [we’ll be working with] the Greenbelt and Ontario By Bike. We’re also exploring something around electric vehicles and tourism—we think there’s a considerable opportunity here to encourage green and clean travel, so we’re trying to work with our municipal partners to ensure that we have infrastructure support for those green travellers.

    Why did you join TIAO?

    As a small tourism organization, we get really caught up in the ‘busy’ work of doing our own jobs. We’ve done a lot of development work over the past five years, and we’re proud of where we’ve taken this organization on our own. But we started to realize that by not engaging with our provincial colleagues, perhaps we were being overlooked, and we weren’t benefiting our own tourism operators in the area.

    TIAO is the industry body who represents tourism. We started to monitor what TIAO was doing in regards to advocacy, [and became familiar with] business issues that we may not have looked at in any substantial way for tourism development in Headwaters.

    TIAO communicated important issues that were coming forward in our industry, that we felt our operators needed to benefit from as well. Part of our facilitation role is 
    making those connections, and encouraging our own operators and municipal partners to engage at that level.

    Now when we have an issue—like the Municipal Accommodation Tax—we can call and connect, and find out what’s going on. We use TIAO’s weekly newsletter content, and share that with our operators through our own
    B2B website.

    Our TIAO membership has helped us gain credibility among our municipal partners, and our colleagues. We’re now more connected—we’re not this little group that works on our own.


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

    TIAO has supported our work on the industry side. We say we’re matchmakers and facilitators; because we’re a very small team, we can’t take on all of the responsibilities ourselves. But we’re pretty connected, and pretty knowledgeable of the tourism industry—we can find the right people. So if we have an operator come to us looking to do something interesting, we can match them with other operators in our area. We can also connect them to other municipal, provincial and federal agencies, so that they can move along the tourism continuum. TIAO is a valuable resource for us, supporting our own facilitation role.


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    First, the people. We have a network now! It’s like we’ve expanded our own Headwaters staff by linking with TIAO. We didn’t have that before. The other thing is the curation of information—TIAO supplies us with industry information on topics we need some insight on, to be able to share with our operators and our municipal partners.


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

    Put your hand up and engage. I think success of advocacy, or any kind of business development, is keeping the dialogue open, and having that conversation. It’s really easy to sit back, knit your brow, and question and critique people, but what we do at Headwaters, and what my colleagues do around the province, is where tourism happens at the grassroots, so we need to communicate our insights back to TIAO and our other provincial/federal tourism agencies.

    It’s really hard for any kind of advocacy organization to advocate if they don’t hear what’s happening in the field. I think it’s part of our obligation—yes, TIAO is an advocacy group and that’s part of [the organization’s] role—but we also have a responsibility to work with you. It’s a collaborative effort.

    I encourage our tourism regions and partners to collaborate with like-minded organizations across the province. We’ve learned so much from our colleagues, who are doing great things. The more we share the passion for the industry, the better we’ll all do. Working on our own doesn’t help anybody.

    Thank you to Michele and the Headwaters team for being our first TIAO Member of the Month #TourismFamily

     January 31, 2018
  • 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



     April 30, 2019
  • 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!

     March 31, 2019
  • Tourism Hamilton is an original member of TIAO 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 Hamilton

    This month we talked to Sharon Murphy, Acting Manager of Tourism & Events at Tourism Hamilton.

    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.

    Tourism Hamilton acts as a destination marketing organization and is part of the City of Hamilton’s Tourism and Culture division, which in turn supports the City’s Economic Development Department.

    “Tourism Hamilton [is operating under] a tourism strategy that was developed in 2015. Our mandate is primarily to bring visitors into the community, and to attract and retain meetings, conventions and sport events.

    “We have a group sales unit for meetings, conventions and sport that pursue opportunities daily through outreach, tradeshows and prospecting previous and new potential customers to the city.”

    In recent years, Tourism Hamilton has worked to characterize itself as a premier location for meetings, events and other tourism activities.

    “Hamilton is known as a music city, having hosted the 2015 Juno Awards (sixth time) and the 2018 Canadian Country Music Awards, [which will be coming back] in 2020 (for the 7th time). Hosting these events has elevated Hamilton in the association market and helped bring larger events into the community.

    Hamilton's annual music festival Supercrawl brings about 200,000 visitors to the city.

    Hamilton also has a strong track record when it comes to hosting sporting events.

    “This year we’ll be hosting the Canadian Open for the sixth time, [and then again] in 2023 as part of a six-year partnership with Golf Canada.”

    But big opportunities are not without their challenges. Although the situation is improving, Tourism Hamilton grapples with accommodation capacity as the city’s popularity as a destination grows.

    “Last year Hamilton added 200 rooms. Another hotel property is slated to open this year, and another two are slated for 2020, which is wonderful.”

    Sharon pointed to investment and growth at Hamilton International Airport as an indicator of increased visitation to the city. She also discussed much-needed updates to the city’s convention centre as another current challenge faced by Tourism Hamilton.

    “We do a remarkable job at hosting events at the facility, but it needs some upgrades for us to attract and win larger conferences.

    “[Meanwhile], Hamilton is also very-well known now in the culinary scene. There’s probably a restaurant opening up in our city weekly—it’s really taken off here with great results, both from a local perspective and with visitors.” 

    Sharon spoke to Hamilton’s waterfalls as another major draw for the city. Did you know Hamilton is the waterfall capital of the world?

    Pictured right: Hamilton's Albion Falls


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

    Tourism Hamilton has been a TIAO Member since the association formed, and touts its TIAO Membership in many of its event bids.

    “TIAO is fabulous for us, we’re a very proud member. Much of the good work TIAO does can be used by DMOs, and Tourism Hamilton certainly tries to put it to use as much as possible.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Sharon spoke to TIAO’s various communications as Tourism Hamilton’s favourite thing about the association.


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

    Sharon said TIAO’s communications—specifically the TIAO Newsletter—are also the most valuable part of a TIAO Membership.

    “TIAO is where I go to get a lot of my information from. The TIAO Newsletter talks about other destinations, which sometimes are my competitors, so for me that’s very interesting. I like the policy [information], that comes out in the newsletter, and I also like TIAO’s Member of the Month features. TIAO is very up-to-date.”

    Dundurn Castle, National Historic Site

    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’ve done your research and the information you have is the most up-to-date. Tourism is very important to a destination, arts and culture.”


    What are you working on right now?

    “Tourism Hamilton is launching a new website [this spring]. We went through a rebranding in 2018—centred around [the city’s] authenticity and character—to promote our tourism assets to the leisure market.

    “We have a wonderful marketing team that has benefitted us greatly—everything we’ve done is in-house. We wanted to make sure on our new website that Hamilton’s assets are front and centre for leisure travellers.”

    Tourism Hamilton’s rebrand has already been met with success. Last year the organization won a national branding award from the Economic Developers Association of Canada, as well as the 2018 Ontario Tourism Awards of Excellence’s Tourism Marketing Campaign Award Under $50K (presented at the Ontario Tourism Summit) for the #MyHamilton User Generated Campaign. Additionally, on Jan. 31 Tourism Hamilton was awarded with the 2018 EDCO Awards of Excellence for the 2018 CCMA Awards – Host City Initiatives. Hamilton’s updated consumer-facing website is scheduled to launch June 1.

    Thank you to Sharon for speaking with us about tourism developments in Hamilton, for sharing Tourism Hamilton’s enthusiasm and support for TIAO, and for being our member of the month for February!

    The Tourism Hamilton Team

     February 14, 2019
  • Learn more about the role of retail in 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: Oxford Properties

    This month we talked to Lesley Boughen, Tourism Manager for Yorkdale and Square One shopping centres, two of the leading retail tourism destinations in 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.

    “I oversee the tourism strategy at both Yorkdale and Square One, both [of which] are owned and managed by Oxford Properties.”

    Oxford Properties is the real estate arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS).

    “At one time, retail tourism was something that was very prominent in the United States [before] it made its way into Canada. My focus for both properties is capitalizing on the fact that shopping continues to be a top activity for many international markets coming to Toronto.”

    Retail is indeed a major tourism activity and revenue generator in Ontario. According to TIAO’s Travel and Destination Analytics Report, released last fall in partnership with Global Payments Canada, international visitors from the UK, France, Mexico and Japan spend at least 25 per cent of their travel dollars on retail. Visitors from China allocate more than 70 per cent of their tourism spending to retail and shopping.

    “At Yorkdale and Square One we have a dynamic retail mix. In many cases we have global firsts and exclusive brands that enter into the Canadian market (especially at Yorkdale), and in addition to that retail mix, we also have a dedicated tourism strategy that will entice and attract international travellers to visit both properties.”

    Lesley has worked in tourism for almost 20 years. Prior to working in retail tourism, she spent eight years promoting Britain as a destination to Canadians with VisitBritain.

    “Now I position retail as one of the many the reasons people from all over the world should come to Toronto.”

    Lesley’s position is relatively rare in Canada—there are about three people with similar roles at other retail locations across the country. Sometimes people are surprised at Lesley’s position, unaware of the critical role that retail and shopping play in tourism.

    “Oxford is very much at the forefront of acknowledging the fact that retail and tourism do go hand in hand.”


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

    Oxford Properties has been a TIAO Member for about a year.

    “I think it’s really important for people in the industry to have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on [within our industry]. I know what’s happening at both shopping centres, but it’s much bigger than that.

    “I see TIAO as that heartbeat of the industry. TIAO is the organization that can provide us with insight, access to government, and government advocacy—something our industry needs.

    “It made sense for [Oxford Properties] to become a TIAO Member, because not only is TIAO there as a support, but it has the ear of the government and the inside track of what’s going on [in the tourism industry]. It’s important for us to have a voice, and that’s what a TIAO Membership provides.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Lesley pointed to advocacy support and resources as her favourite thing about TIAO.


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

    Again, Lesley spoke to TIAO’s leadership on advocacy issues and information sharing as a major source of value for Oxford Properties.

    “I was preparing for a retail tourism presentation, I reached out to TIAO and was able to get some statistics within 12 hours. TIAO is a great resource.”


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

    “Sometimes it’s very easy to become focussed on internal objectives and hitting year-end goals. But in tourism there are so many different facets of the industry—we’re part of a bigger picture.

    “I think there’s a huge opportunity to work with TIAO, all towards a common goal. Tourism is such an economic driver in the province, [but] we need to work together [to actualize it].

    “My advice is to get involved, because we’re better together.”


    What are you working on right now?

    “In 2019, at Yorkdale we’ve got some really exciting brands opening—Valentino, Tora Aburi Sushi and the Holt Renfrew expansion [for example]. One of the things that Yorkdale is known for is having the largest collection of first-in-Canada brands, [many of which] have traditionally been in department stores and are now opening up standalone stores. In 2019, that first-to-market trend is expected to continue.”

    Lesley also told us about two exciting new projects launching at Square One in 2019: The Rec Room and the Food District.

    “Square One is going to be evolving in 2019. The Rec Room, managed by Cineplex, is 44,000 square feet occupying two levels in the shopping centre. It will be a state-of-the-art amusement, games, experience and live entertainment [facility], and will elevate the overall experience that Square One offers.

    “In the spring we have the Food District opening, the second food market of its kind in Canada. It’s 34,000 square feet, will host about 20 vendors, and will offer everything from dine-in restaurants, individual [artisanal food vendors], a demonstration kitchen, and more.”

    Both properties will also be focussing on partnerships in 2019, exploring opportunities to work with tourism operators in dining, retail, entertainment, accommodation and transportation, among other areas.

    Thank you to Lesley for speaking with us about the importance of retail tourism's contribution to Ontario's economy. And thank you to Oxford Properties for being TIAO’s Member of the Month for January!

    Lesley (far left) welcoming a group to Yorkdale

     January 17, 2019