Double Awards for Durham’s Rural Routes and Dirty Boots Trail

By | Media Room | No Comments

Congratulations to all those involved in the Rural Routes and Dirty Boots product trail celebrating twice over on the same evening -October 24th – in Toronto, at the 12th Annual DINE and Destination Awards for Winner Culinary Tourism Initiative – Rural Routes & Dirty Boots.

Also in Windsor, at the Ontario Tourism Summit for Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Award –2017 GREENBELT Brewery Discovery Routes highlighting the very best in local craft beer, independent food and premium beverages to visitors across Ontario, of which Rural Routes & Dirty Boots was selected to host the judging panel.

Cheers to this outstanding community of partners in culinary tourism!

Executive Director October Recap

By | Media Room | No Comments

Good Day,

Last week, the board and staff met to set the direction of the organization for fiscal 2019-2020, which begins April 1.  Each of Central Counties’ 16 board members is also a stakeholder who is volunteering – taking time away from their own successful careers and businesses to take a step back to look at the big picture for tourism in the region.  The board members were asked to answer the question “What does success look like for Central Counties”.  It is a great question, and an important one for the direction of the organization.

The responses around the table were very similar and all revolved you, our people.  Success for Central Counties doesn’t lie in dollars and cents because we own no assets.  As we went around the table asking the question, it became evident that success for Central Counties also wasn’t about WHAT we do for our stakeholders to make them successful but rather HOW we work with, partner with and support our stakeholders so that they can build their own success.   Success is hearing that a leveraged investment allowed a regional museum to double its attendance.  Success is getting a call from one of the biggest tourist attractions in the province because they want to leverage their reach to help drive more overnight visitation.  Success is being able to distribute a media advisory about the new partners added to a stakeholder-developed tourism route now in its fourth year.  Success is having yet another Tourism Coordinator hired in a municipality which has completed and adopted a Community Tourism Plan.

Central Counties has been headed in this direction over the last few years.  This current fiscal, one of our main goals is to grow our business-to-business channels so that more tourism businesses know Central Counties and understand the programs and resources at their avail.  In partnership with our DMO’s, we have already begun booking time to speak with new municipal councils so that they understand that tourism matters and that by working together and leveraging our resources, we have the ability to grow tourism spending in a way that benefits businesses and residents.  We continue to tell your good news stories to our larger stakeholder group because it is tangible and can motivate others to think about their organization within the context of the bigger destination.

When the board meeting ended, we left with a unified idea of what success looked like.  We even crafted a draft high-level statement of what Central Counties does.   Central Counties Tourism aligns tourism resources to expand the York Durham Headwaters stakeholders’ ability to grow our tourism economy.  In a nutshell, we are only successful when you are and we can’t prescribe what success looks like for you.  We are here to help you be prepared for and capable of including tourism visitation and spending as part of your annual plans.

So please continue to reach out to us to tell us HOW we can help you be more successful.  And spread the word to your peers that Central Counties is here to help.  We are actively engaged with hundreds of tourism stakeholders throughout the region and there is still room for us to grow together as more businesses become involved.  You can reach out to me directly at or connect with your regional field manager:

Headwaters: Emily Quinton; York: Sandra Quiteria; Durham: Eleanor Cook

Have a great day!


Taking notes

Tourism Now Webinar Available

By | Featured Articles, Media Room | No Comments

Getting to Know Central Counties Tourism

Tourism Now WebinarWe are excited to launch our new webinar aimed at providing a snapshot of the tourism landscape and how we can work together to strengthen your business. Developed from our live Tourism Now workshops offered across the region, the 20-minute webinar includes tips and resources for becoming tourism-ready and maximizing your exposure to visitors by taking advantage of opportunities.

Check out the Tourism Now Webinar

You can also access the webinar through the B2B resources page.

Interested in a Tourism Now workshop tailored for your community, tourism group or BIA. Learn how you can work with Central Counties and our partners and gain an understanding of how tourism works! Contact your field manager to book a live presentation.

Executive Director August Recap

By | Media Room | No Comments

Good Day,

As the summer season starts to wind down, many of you are gearing up for your truly busy season – fall.  Being busy is good.  It may not always feel like it when you go home exhausted, but it is a testament to the amount of people that want to get out of the house and do something different and unique.  And, as tired as you may be, there is a certain sense of accomplishment knowing that you had a hand in making someone else’s day special.

I don’t know if you have heard of the saying “Make big bigger”.  The theory is that it is easier and less expensive to attract more paying customers at a time when they are already pre-disposed to travel than it is to build something new to fill your slower periods.  That is not to say that extending seasons isn’t important – it is just easier to pay for when you increase your revenues during your traditionally busy periods.

March Break at GlowZone 360 accounts for 7.5% of the total revenue for the year.  In 2018, they increased March Break Revenues by 10% over 2017 and have set aside those additional funds to do programming in September and October which has historically been a slower part of the year.  This 10% increase did not cost any additional marketing/communication money.  It was the message and programming that changed.

The fear that many businesses have with the “make big bigger” theory is that the increased attendance may have a negative affect on the visitor experience.  It doesn’t have to if you plan accordingly and keep your potential visitors informed.  At GlowZone, daily social media posts let potential visitors know the hours and also know when large groups were booked to play.  They also provided the phone number and encouraged everyone to call ahead to reserve a time for them to play.  This allowed staff to spread pre-booked visitors through the entire day, leaving room for walk-in visitors to be squeezed in.  On site, staff interacted and challenged visitors to air hockey and other games in a very public manner to keep people entertained.  GlowZone maintained a 4.6/5 star rating on Google through March Break even with the 10% increase in visitors.

I have been thrilled to see so many of you looking to work together to make big, bigger for everyone involved.  A Country Path, which is a stakeholder-driven initiative, revamped their website and did a tour route map reprint in partnership with Central Counties to be ready for the busy summer and even busier fall season.  All of the businesses realized years ago that in terms of attracting visitors from farther away, they were stronger together.  We are also currently reviewing an application to assist market a brand new apple-themed trail that hopes to grow an already busy and popular time of year for the partners.

Even more of you are looking to better understand your current visitors so that you can find more of the same types of people to make big bigger and grow into your shoulder season.  This is brilliant and exactly what we are here to help you do.  If you spend some time collecting postal codes from all of your current visitors – even if you believe they are all local – for $99, we can do a deep dive through CCT’s Visitor Research Program that will help you better understand how to reach more of them and what motivates them to get out and about.  If you want to talk with us about ideas on how you can make big bigger, reach out and we can chat.  And then we can help come up with ideas to extend your profitable season.

Best regards, Chuck Thibeault

Ice Fishing on Lake Simcoe

By | Media Room | No Comments

The community of Georgina, on the southern shores of beautiful Lake Simcoe has a long history of ice fishing. In the winter, ice cream parlors have shut up shop but bait stores are still open and fishing huts dot the frozen lake. Lake Simcoe, world-renowned as an ice fishing destination.

Today, the landscape is white-on-white and it feels more like being in northern Canada than a little more than an hour away from downtown Toronto.

Ken Heyink grew up on the ice. He is the second-generation operator of Hank Heyink Fish Hut Rentals, which organizes ice fishing trips on Lake Simcoe. Ken says his love of ice fishing started when he was 12 years old, when he’d race home from school and go fish on the lake for a few hours, ignoring his homework.

You don’t need to be an expert fisherman—or woman—to try your luck ice fishing. You don’t need access to a boat to reach lake trout – all you need is a pole and some bait.

hankKen’s dad, Hank, was one of the operators offering ice fishing trips on Lake Simcoe back in 1952. Then, anglers walked out on the ice or catch a ride in their Model A 1927 pick-up truck. Today, Hank Heyink Fish Hut Rentals own 17 huts on the frozen lake and have swapped their truck for a vintage bright red 12-person bombardier. This ‘snow bus’ was originally used in Quebec by emergency services and eventually school buses and to help deliver the mail.

We travel two miles out onto the ice where huts dot the landscape. The bombardier bumps along the ice, snow kicking up from the ground on to the windscreen. The view outside is variations of white and grey. What our ride lacks in comfort, it makes up for in utility. Before GPS, Christmas trees would dot the frozen lake every 100 metres or so, like lights on a runway, guiding ice fishing outfitters and seasonal anglers across the ice. “I’m sure I could do this blindfolded,” says Ken.

Lake Simcoe is home to over 40 species of fish in the lake. The most popular catch for ice anglers are yellow perch, lake trout and whitefish, as well as Northern Pike. For purists, ice fishing is about making a hole in the frozen water, dropping a line and sitting on a stool bracing the elements as you wait for a fish to bite.

If you’re looking for some comfort, Hank Heyink Fish Hut Rentals and other operators in the area will bring you directly to ice fishing huts during the frigid winter months. The comfortable huts are heated using vented propane furnaces. There’s a stove at the back – to make a hot drink to keep warm or fry up your day’s catch. In the centre of the ground is a large hole cut into the ice, where you can drop your line and try your luck dangling your line in the ice-cold water.

Ice fishing poles are usually shorter than the ones you use in the summer as you’re casting into a small hole. If you don’t have your own equipment, outfitters will rent them to you. We try our luck with a tip-up pole, made from wood. When a fish bites, a trigger activates and lets you know you have caught something.

Jason van BruggenPadded benches line the inside of the hut on either side of the fishing hole and we’re also provided with a bucket of minnows to lure our catch. The fishing hole is equipped with tip up stands so you can rest your line. Like fishing during the warmer months, ice fishing is a game of chance (we leave empty handed) and patience. There are some techniques you can employ – such as switching up your bait or slowly moving your tip up and down.

Maybe the fish are having an off day and after an hour of fishing, we leave empty handed. If we did have better luck, the beauty of ice fishing is you can leave your catch on the ice until you’re ready to take it home. For Mike, ice fishing is about the challenge of finding the fish during the winter months, as fish move under the frozen lake. Even on a day where the weather could be best described as ‘inclimate’ there’s a sense of adventure in rugging up, embracing the Canadian winter and experiencing Ontario’s lakes in a way you normally can’t.

The ice fishing season on Lake Simcoe runs from January until mid-March.

What you will need:

  • A valid fishing license before your rod hits the ice. You can arrange a license online or visit your local Canadian Tire store.
  • Winter clothing – even though the transport and huts are heated, you’ll still need to dress to stay warm.
  • If you have your own fishing rods and tackle, bring them along. Outfitters can also rent you a tip up style rod and tackle is available for sale.

This article is written by 

Temperance and Temptation Tour

Executive Director July Recap

By | Media Room | No Comments

This summer we put out a call for stakeholders wanting to partner with Central Counties to bring the stories of temperance and temptation to life.  Central Counties spent the better part of a year researching the history of our small towns as they relate to the history of alcohol production, consumption and opposition and brought them to life through audio tours for self-guided participants and actors and music for the guided tours.

We then asked our partners to further enhance the experiences by doing something special for participants upon their arrival.  Our partners have truly stepped up, offering special treats whenever a participant uses the secret code upon arrival.  This is a new approach for Central Counties and we have been thrilled with the response we are getting from both stakeholders and the public.  The tours are designed with one main purpose – to drive people to our region and give them a reason to spend time and money within it.  I recently took three people on a test run of the Durham Tour and we added up the total spent (not including a fill-up of gas in Whitby).  Between the food and the bottles/cans we purchased to bring home, we were just over $400 or $100 per person.  And we didn’t even get to see and do everything on the tour because of time constraints.

As an industry, we have to do a better job of demonstrating the economic impact of tourism to our municipal, regional and provincial stakeholders.  All partners of the Temperance and Temptation tours have agreed to collect and share visitor data with Central Counties so that we can tell the good news story of the experiences.  Temperance and Temptation is not a one and done program.  Our goal is to grow it year after year, adding new stories and new partners.  In five years, I would love Central Counties to be as synonymous with bootlegging and temperance as Kentucky is to bourbon!

I highly recommend that each of you take time this summer or fall to enjoy at least one of the self-guided tours to see how partners are stepping up to enhance the consumer experiences.  Through the year, we will be researching our next experiences that we believe will be a hit with the types of visitors that frequent our region and will keep you posted on opportunities to partner as they arise.  And remember, if you have an idea for saleable, trackable experiences that you want to bring to market, please reach out.  We are always looking to assist those that are looking for new ways to drive visitation.

Have a great summer and check out our partners in the Temperance and Temptation tour!

Best regards, Chuck Thibeault



Summer Road Trip Magazine Hot off the Press!

By | Media Room | No Comments

Building on the success of last year’s Ultimate Road Trip campaigns, with recording breaking visitation of more than 240k consumer visits to, Central Counties is once again Ontario’s Ultimate Road Trip Destination this summer! The Road Trip Magazine featuring some of Central Counties member businesses was circulated to 120,000 Globe & Mail customers.

Our businesses are reporting excellent results from the campaign:
“One of the guest couples just checked out after spending two nights with us and they mentioned the reason they booked was the Ultimate Road Trip magazine. Getting immediate results from that campaign made my partner and I do a little happy dance in the kitchen this morning. We cannot thank Central Counties enough for all the work you do to enhance tourism in the YDH region. We look forward to building upon these successes as we continue to improve the tourism landscape in the Town of Erin with Central Counties.” Trevor Crystal, Tailwinds Bed & Breakfast, Hillsburgh

See the Road Trip Magazine Below: