| Sep 10, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - September 10, 2009 LOLTA’s reach expandsBy Jeff Green

In preparing for the third biennial VISION awards ceremony at the end of this month, staff at the Land O'Lakes Tourist Association (LOLTA) were looking at some of the organisation’s history, and it turns out it was founded a long time ago.

In 1943 a meeting was held at Salmond’s resort on Mississagagon Lake, which led to the formation of an association. Sixty-six years have brought a lot of changes, but Salmond's resort is still going strong under the name of Lancaster's and the Land O'Lakes Tourist Association is in a period of growth.

LOLTA has expanded its territory in recent years from its base on the Canadian Shield to include all of Frontenac and L&A Counties as well as the village of Tweed.

Municipal support and its role in managing a series of marketing programs under the provincial Rural Economic Development (RED) banner have enabled LOLTA to maintain and staff an office with a manager (now Ken Hook) and an administrator (Joanne Cuddy).

Ken Hook, who started working for LOLTA this past May, was familiar with the organisation as a business owner and a municipal politician in Addington Highlands, but until he took on the manager's job he did not know the full reach of LOLTA's marketing initiatives.

“I didn’t know that our maps and guides are available all over the province and into the United States, I didn’t know how many trade shows we go to. I always thought the reach was more regional, but we have guides in Kenora, Alberta, all over the place,” he said.

One of the goals that LOLTA has set for itself is increased membership.

“We would like to increase our membership by 50 members per year over the next two years,” Hook said. “We've sold 21 memberships since May so we are on the right track.”

LOLTA has about 200 members now, and a large proportion of them come from the association's heartland of Central and North Frontenac and Addington Highlands. There are also new members coming on from the southern regions, including Wolfe Island.

“We just had our first winery join, from Adolphustown, and a few others could be joining as well,” Ken Hook said. “The way I look at it we have to demonstrate that the membership fee ($165) will bring in at least that amount of cash value to a business, and hopefully a lot more.”

Some benefits to membership are obvious, the opportunity to be on the map and guide, for example, but there are others as well. LOLTA has negotiated a discount price for its members from Moneris for credit card transactions, and for members that have made investments in accessibility, there is now a 40% rebate program for marketing initiatives, including all forms of advertising and signage.

Looking forward, the increasing global opportunities that are offered by the LOLTA website will be explored.

“Over the next year we will be looking increasingly at Europe,” said Ken Hook, “and the website is the important piece there.”

The European market has become more relevant with the coming of new passport regulations. “Only 30% of Americans have passports,” Hooks said, “so it pays to look to Europe.”

An online reservation system, incorporated into a revamped LOLTA website (travellandolakes.ca) that will be available to all member businesses could be coming over the next year. It will be invaluable in attracting European tourists and others to the region.

In the immediate future the VISION awards are a focus for LOLTA’s staff and directors. The public has an opportunity to nominate businesses that have “shown innovation, expansion and extraordinary determination to grow in rural communities”.

Winners will be named from each of the nine member municipalities of the association (including South, Central and North Frontenac and Addington Highlands) and there will also be an overall winner.

For details, go to travellandolakes.ca to download a nomination form. 

Support local
independant journalism by becoming a patron of the Frontenac News.