Tourism industry professionals from across Ontario will gather at Lang Pioneer Village in Keene this April for the second annual Rural Tourism Symposium.
The one-day conference, with the theme “Redefining Success”, takes place 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 11th at the Peterborough County Agriculture Heritage Building at Lang Pioneer Village (104 Lang Rd., Keene).
Hosted by Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development (PKED) in partnership with Chatham-Kent Tourism, the event is also supported by Grey County Tourism, Simcoe County Tourism, Headwaters Tourism, Kawartha Lakes Tourism, and Kawarthas-Northumberland (Regional Tourism Organization 8).
There’s no question that tourism is an important economic driver in Ontario, particularly for rural communities. According to PKED’s director of tourism and communications Tracie Bertrand, Peterborough & the Kawarthas alone draws around three million visitors every year who contribute approximately $300 million to the local economy.
“Part of our region’s competitive edge is that we offer the best of vibrant city, complemented by rolling hills of farmland and famed Ontario cottage country,” Bertrand says. “There are more than a thousand tourism businesses located in our region, ranging from retail to restaurants and from accommodations to attractions.”
But the April 11th symposium is not just limited to Peterborough & the Kawarthas: it’s been specifically designed to raise the profile of tourism in rural Ontario, and will attract rural tourism stakeholders, destination marketing organizations, and tourism businesses from across the province.
“We’re hoping this event sparks conversation and builds momentum for rural tourism in the province of Ontario,” Bertrand explains. “Industry professionals, both locally and from away, will gain insight from our expert speakers to leverage efforts at the provincial and national level, capitalize on opportunities, and create partnerships for success.”
The symposium begins with a keynote presentation entitled “Leverage Your Reach with Destination Ontario” by Lisa LaVecchia, president and CEO of Destination Ontario.
Legally known as the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation, Destination Ontario is an agency of the Government of Ontario that markets the province as a preferred four-season tourist destination in a globally competitive tourism market. Under LaVecchia’s leadership, Destination Ontario has produced innovative and award-winning brand campaigns, including the ‘Epic Is ON’ campaign for the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games and the ‘Where Am I?’ campaign.
The symposium also includes:
- A presentation by Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, entitled “Stronger Together. Presenting a United Front for Rural Tourism” on how tourism industry professionals can collaborate with the association to achieve success.
- An “Agritourism Farm Table Chat” led by the Culinary Tourism Alliance’s director of food tourism innovation Trevor Benson who, along with special guests, will discuss how to build bridges between the agriculture and tourism industries.
- A presentation by Jewel Cunningham, director of Ontario Waterways with Parks Canada, called “Partnering for Success”. Cunningham will describe how partnerships can create exceptional visitor experiences and powerful economic impact in even the smallest of communities.
- A presentation entitled “Showcasing Rural Ontario to National & International Visitors” by David Robinson of Destination Canada (formerly the Canadian Tourism Commission), a federal crown corporation that helps the Canadian tourism industry reach international markets. Robinson will explain how Canada measures up as a competitive hot spot for international travellers.
Finally, the symposium is also a stop on Canada’s national series of Tourism Town Halls, a partnership between the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, Destination Canada, and local industry partners. The Tourism Town Halls provide an opportunity for small and medium-sized tourism businesses across Canada to better understand efforts being made on national tourism issues.
“This tourism town hall will be especially important given the announcement of last week’s federal budget and the importance it placed on tourism as a high-growth sector,” Bertrand says.
The Tourism Town Hall includes a panel discussion with representatives from Destination Canada, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, and Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism, moderated by Michele Harris, director of economic and community development with the Municipality of Grey Highlands.
Reducing the negative impact on the environment is an important element of tourism, particularly in rural destinations, so sustainability is a focus of this year’s symposium. Rather than having print materials available at the symposium, information will be delivered digitally through a downloadable app. Waste, especially food waste, will be limited throughout the day and attendees will be encouraged to bring reusable water bottles and their own notepads or devices for making notes.
“We are excited to welcome tourism stakeholders from across the province and show them how we are redefining success in tourism in our communities,” Bertrand says. “We are equally excited to have our tourism operators come out and celebrate what makes our industry unique, right here in our own backyard at the Agriculture Heritage Building at Lang Pioneer Village.”
The cost for the second annual Rural Tourism Symposium is $125+HST, which includes a continental breakfast, a market-style lunch, and entry to the Tourism Town Hall. Tickets are available online at ruraltourism.biz.
For out-of-town visitors looking for accommodation, special rates are available at both the Best Western Otonabee Inn (705-742-3454) and Motel 6 (705-748-0550) in Peterborough. Call and ask for the block under “Rural Tourism Symposium” to take advantage of the special rates.