Oct 08, 2014
by Lucas Wales
For over 70 years the Land O’ Lakes Tourist Association (LOLTA) has been working to add value to our region of Ontario, to create a sense of place, and to establish the small rural communities within it as a destination.
The association is one of the best shared services that our local municipalities and business owners make an investment in each year. General Manager of LOLTA, Lucas Wales, says the association has been doing a great job in terms of marketing the area over the short term, but it is time to start looking at some of the bigger picture items that need to be addressed. “Our region’s growth rates are not flattering to the long term sustainability of our small communities. Without the means for proper investment we are going to be facing some major challenges within the next decade. If we are unable to invest in the infrastructure that is crucial to growth, we will remain stagnate; that hurts our communities, but it also hurts our tourism industry...We need to continue to focus our efforts on bringing people here from Kingston, Ottawa, and Toronto, but what is critical is that while we have them here we are making a sales pitch as to why they should retire or start a business here. That can be either formal, or informal through projects like community improvements plans and beautification projects which many communities have begun undertaking.”
For those who already own a business one of the most important marketing connections they can make is with the Land O’ Lakes. “Each year we print 70,000 tourist information maps for the region that go all over the province, including inside the region as well at local gas stations, accommodations, restaurants, tourism centres, in outdoor boxes, and countless other locations. If you run any type of business that is tourism-related, you need to get yourself listed on our map and on our website. We currently have about 180 businesses who are members of the association, but there are so many more out there with whom we still need to connect.” According to a recent report from RTO 11, tourism is a $440 million industry in Ontario’s Highlands alone every year. Our job is to connect as many of those dollars being spent within the industry with our piece of Ontario here in the Land O’ Lakes. This summer our social media outlets were driving our focus on our small festivals and events, which create a huge economic stimulus within our communities. Next year we will publish our first ever festivals and events map for the region, highlighting exactly what is going on, where, and when to connect visitors with an added incentive to visit our communities. We will also be focusing on driving tourism to our trails systems as we move into 2015. With winter quickly approaching we are building a relationship with the OFSC to draw on Snowmobile Tourism into our region. We will be working with our accommodators to highlight which businesses remain open in the winter months, and how we can connect snowmobilers with their businesses.