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5 Reasons to Get Excited About Local Tourism in 2017

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 5 Reasons to Get Excited About Local Tourism in 2017

Pembroke, ON (January 13, 2017) –As the energy and possibility that comes with a New Year reaches a high this month, the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) is predicting an exciting year for tourism in the rural communities located between Haliburton Highlands and the Ottawa Valley.
“With a successful 2016 behind us, and a budding enthusiasm for attracting new visitors to our wonderful neighbourhoods in bolder and more targeted ways in 2017, we are bracing ourselves for an influential year ahead,” says Nicole Whiting, OHTO’s Executive Director. “2017 has the potential to re-define the tourism industry in our region, and we are confident that it will also provide our locals with an invigorated sense of pride in the places they call home.”
Live in Ontario’s Highlands? Here are five reasons to get excited about local tourism in 2017:
1) The Year of “The Wanderer”

The New Year begins with an unprecedented “win” for the communities in Ontario’s Highlands: a powerful, region-wide brand message that has been developed and tested, and which gives the region an identity that can be shared and celebrated. The regional brand of Come Wander was introduced to tourism stakeholders in the Spring of 2016, and an official consumer launch is scheduled for Spring 2017.
The brand positions Ontario’s Highlands as an ideal place to embrace the ideology of wandering, in both mind and body, embracing unexpected moments and allowing each new discovery to stimulate the senses and nourish the soul. It was chosen for its ability to resonate with city-dwellers looking to escape the everyday and slow the pace in an intriguing new location. “It’s not just a shift in strategy. It’s a shift in mindset,” says Whiting. “For both locals and visitors, Come Wander encourages a new way of thinking about our region as a vibrant, mysterious place that is best explored with an openness to wander, and a thirst for trying something for the first time.” The launch will incorporate an innovative campaign and a new tourism website.
2)  A Strong Tourism Economy
According the latest statistics from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, tourism continues to be “big business” in Ontario’s Highlands, contributing to jobs and revenues that promote vitality and foster growth. In 2014, 4.8 million people visited the region, spending a total of $529 million, an increase of $11 million from the previous year. Even more encouraging? The number of tourism-related businesses increased by nearly 42 percent from 2013, with the tourism sector employing 4,600 people in over 20,000 different businesses, including hotels, resorts, restaurants, festivals, museums and more.
3) Small Towns, Big Stories
Over the last year, several tourism operators in Ontario’s Highlands have been recognized on a provincial and national level for their valuable contributions to the larger tourism community, receiving nominations for prestigious awards from some of the biggest voices of tourism in Canada. These include two separate titles for Tourism Champion of the Year (Attractions Ontario and Tourism Industry Association of Ontario), the Colonel Don Dailley Lifetime Achievement Award (Attractions Ontario), Best Cultural Ambassador (Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada) and a nomination for the Brewster Travel Canada Adventure/Outdoors Award (Tourism Industry Association of Canada).
“This recognition is huge for our region,” says Whiting, “because it builds credibility and piques curiosity for a region that truly is a hidden gem in Ontario. We are quickly earning a reputation for not just the quality of our tourism experiences, but for the passion of our operators, and the lasting impressions that their stories inspire with guests. We are leaders in tourism – and it is great to see our operators being recognized for their amazing accomplishments.”
Ontario’s Highlands has also generated buzz with national media, with stories about our region appearing in outlets such as Expedia, National Geographic, Mercedes-benz Magazine, The Ottawa Citizen and on many travel blogs. As for 2017, Whiting says that locals can expect to see an increased number of media “influencers” wandering through their towns, eager to share their unrehearsed moments in both traditional and digital outlets.
4) An Industry that Works Together
“The tourism industry in Ontario’s Highlands has been shifting towards a more collaborative approach, and 2017 will see additional opportunities for our operators to partner, versus compete, with one another,” says Whiting. On the horizon is the development of a regional maple culinary tour involving five area businesses, as well as talks of industry-led FAM tours, which allow businesses to open doors to their regional tourism colleagues with hopes of better understanding each other’s product, service and experience offered. “It is inspiring to see what our operators can accomplish by working together to create one-of-a-kind experiences that speak to our visitors and invite them to wander through the region as a destination, rather than a single attraction or stop.”
In Spring 2017, the OHTO plans to offer its third IGNITE program that brings together influential business owners, as well as community organizations and partners,  for an immersive three-day training session on experience development. The program is focused on building a stronger understanding of what it means to put the visitor first, as well as developing bonds with fellow “ignitees” that will translate into an increased ability to partner with each other and compete in a larger market. The 2016 IGNITE program, hosted in the Ottawa Valley, was met with high demand from the industry.
5) New Experiences and Events
From bow pose to boats, 2017 will see a variety of new tourism experiences across the region, re-invigorating the visitor experience and giving locals an opportunity to wander their backyards in a whole new way. In the spring, Le Boat, Europe’s largest self-drive boating company will begin bookings on the historic Rideau Canal and a walking food tour (The Good Food Tour) will kick off in Almonte. As for Festival Season? Ontario’s Highlands will be home to two new summer events that are sure to become a yearly tradition: Emerge Festival, a celebration of conscious living including a line-up of world-renowned yoga and meditation instructors, as well as workshops and glamping; and the Pick N’ Ride bluegrass festival organized by Horse Country Campground – think of it as the Calgary Stampede of the Ottawa Valley.
“We look forward to a trail-blazing year filled with new tourism successes, and many new reasons to wander,” says Whiting.
About OHTO
Ontario\'s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) is a not-for-profit organization mandated by the Province of Ontario to increase tourism within the counties of Haliburton, Lanark, and Renfrew and portions of Frontenac, Hastings, and Lennox and Addington. Find out more at

Contact Information:
Email: Kasia Wind
Organization: Ontario's Highlands Tourism Organization
Phone: 613.629.6486 ext. 206