Question: What do the following countries have in common? Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, St. Kitts, Scotland, United States
Answer: Visitors from these countries have traveled through and stayed overnight in Sharbot Lake this summer. (There may even be more countries than this.)
When Arlette and I took over Rock Hill B&B in 2017, we fantasised about the day that we might have our first European travellers. Our initial (and uninformed) perception of Sharbot Lake caused us to think of that day as being off into the future. And yet, our very first online booking (on the second weekend we were in business) was from a couple travelling from Berlin. On that very same weekend, a second couple, from Munich, booked in as a “walk up.” Since then we have had visitors from 18 countries and 5 continents.
When I tell people about the number of international visitors who have passed through our establishment, the reactions range from amazement to disbelief. “What brings them through here?” is the common refrain in response.
It’s not hard to believe, really, when one stops to consider that question. Many international travellers are visiting Canada now, (especially from Europe) because of the favourable exchange rate on their money. Many decide to travel to Canada for the first time and, more often than not, they want to visit our capital city and our largest city. And Sharbot Lake is right on their preferred route between the two.
However, what if this preferred route had the capacity to capture these folks for more than just a quick overnight stay before heading off to Toronto and the Niagara region next morning? Many of these travellers say they want to explore Frontenac County as they are passing through.
What we have done is send them off to our local artisans and artists; driven folks from Europe to Conboy’s Maple Syrup operations; steered them to The Crossing, Maples, The Cardinal and the Fall River Pub & Grill; accompanied them on the K&P and Trans-Canada trails; and free of charge, we have lent our bikes and canoe to have as many as possible stay and experience the Sharbot Lake area, even for half a day.
For us, it is apparent that Frontenac has the potential to offer many more experiences. There are far more tourists at our internet door step than we are aware of. Can we in the hospitality industry make a more concerted effort to work together, consolidate resources, and become more visible in terms of tourism offerings? Otherwise, more and more tourists will continue down Highway 7 from Ottawa, eat late dinners in Perth, stay overnight in the few B&B’s and motels we offer, and will continue to be off to Toronto right after breakfast the next day. Why not experience Sharbot Lake?
Rock Hill Bed & Breakfast