Since the demise of the Land O’Lakes Tourist Association, Frontenac County has been partnering with the Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization, a group encompassing three full counties Haliburton, Lanark, Renfrew) and parts of three others (Frontenac, Hastings, Lennox & Addington) in order to promote tourism across those areas. OHTO one of 13 regional tourism organizations funded by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
One of the programs that the OHTO is promoting is called Ignite, and representatives from the County, OHTO and program facilitators were at the Sharbot Lake Country Inn Monday to invite business owners and tourism operators to the program.
“The Ignite program provides guidance, support and encouragement with inspiring new experiences and workshop elements to seed the development of new and enhanced tourism experiences,” said Stephanie Hessel, OHTO tourism development coordinator.
Todd Lucier hosts the program at his off-grid, solar powered nature retreat Northern Edge Algonquin in Algonquin Park. He’s run several similar programs in Newfoundland.
“The program is designed for rural communities,” he said. “Your goal is to have travelers go home telling stories about your area.
“Travelers are seeking more from their travel. No longer is it sufficient to offer things to see and do or promote our physical assets, features or infrastructure.”
He said the Ignite program is a three-day best practices mission for tourism related businesses and enterprises to learn techniques and principles of experience development.
One veteran of the program is brewer Andre Rieux, who runs Cartwright Springs Brewery in Packenham.
“People are coming to the brewery for tours, for the restaurant,” he said. “It’s become a destination.
“I thought because we have good springs and make good beer, it would be enough, but it wasn’t.”
Rieux said he met a chocolatier at a retreat that he attended and that led to chocolate stout, one of his best selling products, and to beer-flavoured ice cream.
“Things that aren’t normal are the most fun,” he said.
The application deadline for the Ignite retreat is Feb. 28. Since it is in the OHTO, it is not available to tourism related businesses from South Frontenac, but is available to those from Lanark County, Central and North Frontenac, and Addington Highlands. Thanks to subsidy from the OHTO, the cost to participants for the three day retreat, complete with meals and accomodations. The only cost covered by the businesses is transportation.