I am excited. Probably more excited and confident in the future of our amazing industry than I have been in a while. This week was TIAO’s Annual Tourism Summit, which for me started with a meeting with our new Minister. I have to say that the Honourable Lisa MacLeod is a powerhouse whose passion and political savvy are combining to elevate our portfolio within government.
If you haven’t already heard, we are now the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture INDUSTRIES(!!) because a) the Minister recognizes that heritage plays a major role in the fabric of our province and b) she wants government to recognize what she already knows – our Ministry is a revenue generator for Ontario. It’s our businesses that help pay for education, health care and road maintenance, often with NEW MONEY coming to the province through visitation and investment.
Even within the Ministry itself, she is removing the walls between sport, culture, tourism and heritage. It is great that the government is recognizing that there is such cross-over between these four industries. The annual Ontario Lacrosse Festival that takes place in Durham every year is a prime example of that. The tournament is a huge economic driver for the region and for many years we have viewed it as sport tourism. But under this new holistic approach, I was thinking on the drive home today that there is an incredible heritage and culture story to be told about the sport, which in turn could drive new audiences to the festival which creates an even bigger economic impact.
Minister MacLeod opened the conference early on Tuesday morning and set the tone for the entire event. There was a positive energy among the 450 delegates that started high and just seemed to grow as we shared best practices, learned about new trends and gained insights into solutions for problems felt throughout the industry. I even got to sit on a panel and talk about some of the great partnerships we have developed with you over the years. Our Golf in Ontario program and our friends from Caledon were both up for tourism awards at the Tourism Excellence Awards Gala. Unfortunately, neither of us won, but we were in great company.
Shared success is the best success in my mind. Our partnerships with stakeholders continue to strengthen, leading to better stories to tell, more people learning about them and more visitors coming to our region to spend money with the partners. While I have been away in Blue Mountain, the rest of the staff and many, many stakeholders have been down in Toronto setting up our collective booth at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. This has been an incredible collaboration between individual businesses, municipalities, our DMO partners and Central Counties. Each day for the 10 days, different stakeholders and regions within Central Counties will be featured. We will draw people into our large interactive environment with samples and great programming and tell guests our stories to convince them to come visit our great region. I encourage each of you to come down to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, which starts Friday, to see how we are collectively promoting the region. Who knows, it may very well spark an idea that can lead to more partnerships.
The timing of this renewed hope and energy couldn’t have been better as my next big task is to draft the 2020-2021 Business Plan for the organization. I don’t think we are going to be thrown any major curveballs this upcoming fiscal, which will allow us to continue to be proactive and effective in helping build the tourism capacity of the region.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I always look forward to talking with you.