• See how The Globe and Mail supports TIAO and ON's tourism industry see more

    We’re featuring a special TIAO Member each month to share with the #TourismFamily what they do, and how they connect with TIAO. Learn something new about your tourism industry colleagues, and the value of a TIAO Membership!

    Member of the Month: The Globe and Mail

    This month we talked to Mark Iker, Advertising Manager at The Globe and Mail and TIAO Board Director.

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Who are you and what do you do? Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    Currently in the role of one of the Advertising Managers at The Globe and Mail for 38 years.  With regards to how the Globe and Mail fits into Ontario’s Tourism Industry, Mark explained how he can help with the industry to gain greater coverage within the newspaper.

    “Local tourism is so important to the overall economy of Ontario, and unless you work in the industry, you don’t how important it is in terms of the amount of jobs the sector creates, and how all businesses are affected positively through a healthy local tourism industry.

    “The travel category is very important to the overall advertising revenue for The Globe and Mail, and local tourism is one of the key components to the overall revenue of the category. Over 60 percent of our audience is based in Ontario, and there are so many great things to see and do in the province that The Globe and Mail can help promote to its readership.”

    Much more than just a print newspaper, The Globe and Mail is a multi-media company that utilizes a multitude of different platforms to produce all different types of content. From digital, to print, to custom content, to custom editorial, to native social media and influencers, The Globe can cover it all.

    Mark personally recognized the importance of the tourism industry to local economies early in his career.

    “When I began my advertising career selling the travel category, I quickly realized how much local tourism meant to our readership. [For instance], special supplements such as Explore Ontario and Taste Ontario have become a reader favourites. We get testimonials from advertisers who say readers are taking these supplements into local tourism businesses with a copy of an ad or editorial that was written about them. Our readers have a passion for local tourism [and] these supplements are just one little thing I can help produce for the industry.”


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    “The Globe and Mail has been a TIAO member since 2007.  I spearheaded the effort for The Globe to become a member and support TIAO and the industry; I felt it was important to show how we as a company can help give back.”


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    A sample of TIAO's OTS18 ad that appeared in The Globe and Mail on October 6, 2018

    “Being a member of TIAO has been of great value. Membership has opened many doors for The Globe to forge deeper relationships with its clients, and gain a better knowledge of what their challenges are and how we can help.

    “Supporting TIAO by sponsoring the Tourism Industry Awards of Excellence has given The Globe and Mail more recognition with TIAO Members and the province’s tourism industry. As a company, we are trying to help promote local tourism in many different ways, and sponsoring these awards is one of them.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    “In addition to the great golf tournament, the Ontario Tourism Summit and relationship-building with its members, TIAO is the voice of tourism in Ontario.   There needs to be a voice out there advocating on behalf of its members to the government and TIAO fulfills that role.

    “If I had my own small tourism business, I know that there is a voice out there that I can turn to for help with advocacy issues. TIAO also speaks for both large and small tourism businesses alike.”


    What is one piece of advice you would give to an organization that wants to get involved in advocacy initiatives with TIAO?

    “Make sure you do your due diligence and have the facts right before you [engage] TIAO to advocate on your behalf.”


    What are you working on right now?

    Mark told us about one of The Globe’s recent initiatives this past summer, mobilizing a social media influencer to help spread the word that destinations in Northeastern Ontario were unaffected by forest fires. You can read the influencer's story here.

    “Northeastern Ontario Tourism came to us with an issue they had with getting calls from people who had booked fishing cabins [and other vacation activities] in the region. Guests were hearing about forest fires happening in the region, and were cancelling [out of concern].

    “Northeastern Ontario Tourism requested a reporter to be sent to the area to write a story about how it was unaffected by forest fires. The advertising department doesn’t have access to do that sort of thing, but what we do have as part of our portfolio is a social media influencer program that we can use in cases like this.

    “So we approached our social media person, told her what the issue was, and started conversations about how we could help [Northeastern Ontario Tourism]. We were able to put a package together, and get an influencer and photographer to go up to the region to report how great things were.

    “It came together within less than a week, and it took off—it went very well. The story got picked up by CBC News in Sudbury, both the influencer and Northeastern Ontario Tourism staff involved had a great time, and everyone was ecstatic about the results.

    “It’s one of the additions we can do at The Globe and Mail that also help out regions in need, [and through these programs] we can [help promote] tourism in Ontario. This is something completely different that we’re trying to grow, separate from your traditional buy-in with the paper. Our social media expert wants to do more features like these, as travel and tourism is the perfect fit for these types of activities.”

    The Northeastern Ontario influencer program was the first of its kind done by The Globe and Mail for local tourism. The Globe hopes to do many more in the coming year!

    Thank you to The Globe and Mail for being TIAO's Member of the Month for October, and for its continuous support as a TIAO Visionary and sponsor of the Tourism Industry Awards of Excellence! #TourismFamily

    TIAO President & CEO Beth Potter presenting the Tourism Industry Awards of Excellence with Mark @ OTS17 in Ottawa

  • Catch up on TNO's current activities in Ontario's North see more

    We’re featuring a special TIAO Member each month to share with the #TourismFamily what they do, and how they connect with TIAO. Learn something new about your tourism industry colleagues, and the value of a TIAO Membership!

    Member of the Month: Tourism Northern Ontario

    This month we talked to David MacLachlan, Executive Director, and Marty Kalagian, Board Chair, Tourism Northern Ontario.

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Who are you and what do you do? Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    Alternatively known as Regional Tourism Organization (RTO) 13, Tourism Northern Ontario (TNO) coordinates marketing, product development and other activities for the purpose of increasing tourism visitation and revenues in Ontario’s North. RTO 13 is divided into three subregions, but destination marketing organizations from each area work together as a group.

    David: "The industry recognized that if we work together across the north, we would be able to do more than if we were divided up into three individual regions."

    David MacLachlan and Marty Kalagian

    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    David: "TNO has been a TIAO Member since the formation of the RTOs [in 2011]."

    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    David: "Going back to the Discovering Ontario Report, one of the recommendations made was for tourism to speak with one voice to government. TIAO has certainly filled that role for the tourism industry in Ontario.

    "The organization has been quite helpful over the years in terms of some of the issues the RTOs had [when they started], and being able to communicate those issues back to government. TIAO has been able to work with us to ensure a smoother roll-out of the Regional Tourism Program, which has been a significant undertaking."

    Marty: "As involved as we are in our own area, it’s interesting and important to know what’s going on in the rest of the province. It’s also very important to have someone advocating on behalf of the industry for the entire province. As much as we try to do those things our ourselves in our own areas, I believe TIAO’s presence and importance lies in the fact that it represents the whole province."


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    David: "It’s the people. People are our greatest resource, and I think it’s the same for TIAO. We’re all in the same boat, and I can’t honestly say there’s ever been a time where I felt we couldn’t come to TIAO and have a discussion."


    What are you working on right now?

    David: "On the marketing side—which is about half our budget—we’ve been working to align with provincial branding, [creating] a smoother transition from province to region [and] leveraging initiatives at both levels."

    To streamline marketing efforts and create recognizable messages for international travellers, Tourism Northern Ontario is rebranding to Destination Northern Ontario to match provincial and national destination marketing organizations.

    David: "Working on the product side [...] right now, when we look at tourism in Northern Ontario specifically (which may differ from some of the larger municipalities in the province), the vast majority of our [tourism] products are unbranded. There’s huge opportunities for us to work with the industry to increase the quality of our products and experiences, and our destination community itself."

    To accomplish this, Tourism Northern Ontario has utilized best practices from Atlantic Canada to develop Tourism Excellence North (TEN), a program designed to help operators develop tourism products and enhance visitor experiences, among other business solutions.

    David: "We’ve worked with FedNor, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) to do an assessment and review of some of the development programs that have been in place for a number of years on Canada’s east coast.

    "We’ve just completed a pilot on that, and now we’re looking to take broad-based programming and fine-tune it for our sectors, whether it’s angling or snowmobiling or cultural products. We’re working with industry to make sure our product experiences exceed customer expectations, and that they resonate with consumers.

    "We want to be successful because we’re a destination of choice, and not because of the exchange rate with the US dollar. That means a lot of training, for both operators and their employees."

    The TEN program is also nominated for the Tourism Industry Awards of Excellence’s Tourism Innovator of the Year!

    Marty: "We feel [the TEN program] is bringing the quality of product in the province up to a level where we can market it worldwide, and be confident that anybody coming from anywhere is going to be pleased with the tourism experiences they came to Northern Ontario for."

    Tourism Northern Ontario’s current priorities also include working on the creation of an access-to-capital program for Northern Ontario tourism businesses. In addition, the RTO is preparing for its annual conference, the Northern Ontario Tourism Summit.

    Marty: "We have our annual Summit coming up in November, in Sault Ste. Marie this year. We get very good representation and very good attendance, we bring together matters important to the industry, and we have lots of breakout sessions and workshops. It’s both a social event for people to meet their counterparts in the industry, and an educational [experience] where attendees can [learn new insights]. We try to figure out what’s needed, and then provide sessions according to those needs."


    What is one piece of advice you would give to an organization that wants to get involved in advocacy initiatives with TIAO?

    David: "Be informed, and do the research so that [your asks are] evidence-based and not anecdotal. Until we actually do that research or in-depth analysis, our perceptions might be off—or what might seem like an issue might not actually be an issue. Also always be able to come to the table with suggestions on how to address the issue."

    Marty: "Know all your facts, and do all the research to make sure what you have is accurate and timely. Then try to present it in as cohesive a manner as you can, to reach whichever [goal] you’re trying to achieve.

    “I think advocacy sometimes gets a bad name, but it’s very important. We need to yell out just how important tourism is to this province and to this country, and how big it could actually be in the future as it continues to grow, modernize, change and reflect what people want. It’s such an important industry, and it’s important to keep bringing it forward so that everybody knows.”

    Thank you to Tourism Northern Ontario for being TIAO's Member of the Month for September, and for speaking with us about tourism in our province's largest geographical region! #TourismFamily


  • GBC is home to the inaugural TIAO Student Member Chapter see more

    We’re featuring a special TIAO Member each month to share with the #TourismFamily what they do, and how they connect with TIAO. Learn something new about your tourism industry colleagues, and the value of a TIAO Membership!

    August Member of the Month: George Brown College

    This month we talked to Donna Lee Rosen, Professor, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, George Brown College, and TIAO Student Chapter Ambassadors Kris Campbell, Eric Snow and Virginia Varga via email.

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Who are you and what do you do? Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    Donna: "The School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at George Brown College (GBC) hosts one of Canada’s top tourism programs, developing tourism professionals that will aid in minimizing the projected deficit in tourism HR.

    "In addition to academic expertise, students at GBC are fortunate to have the management team’s support for the development of the inaugural TIAO Student Chapter. This gives our students additional opportunities to learn and understand the reality of the current tourism landscape.

    "Participation in workshops and other TIAO initiatives also allows students to have a voice in the industry they are being educated to become a part of. The incredible real-life connection between the theory all programs offer and the application the TIAO Student Chapter members have the option of being immersed in is priceless."

    The TIAO Student Chapter at George Brown College represents the school’s hospitality and tourism students within both the institution and the association. The chapter actively promotes TIAO, and creates events catering to fellow students’ interests in their industry. An example of is a panel discussion organized last winter, which featured several tourism professionals discuss their individual fields and careers, in addition to their achievements and challenges faced along the way.


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    Donna: "George Brown College became a TIAO Member in 2017.  The association approached the college to discuss developing student chapters for TIAO at universities and colleges across Ontario, which I felt was amazing opportunity for our students."

    Eric: "My membership with TIAO began in June 2017, when we launched the GBC Student Chapter.  I was excited to be part of this partnership from the beginning, and was equally thrilled to be getting actively involved in Ontario’s tourism industry."

    Kris: "I joined TIAO as an official ambassador in January 2018. I joined after Eric came to one of my classes to discuss TIAO and how important the association is to our industry for promotion and advocacy."

    Virginia: "I joined the TIAO student chapter in January 2018, and what an experience it has been! TIAO has given me the opportunity to visualize myself as part of the tourism industry, and also view the industry from a unique perspective—exactly what I was looking for."


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Donna: "The TIAO team has been stellar in its support of all the student initiatives that have come up in the name of the chapter. They’re very generous with their time and expertise, sharing with students in presentations, attending meetings and chapter-related events. Students have also been invited to workshops that would not have been available to them otherwise.

    "Through George Brown’s relationship with TIAO, students can experience first-hand how theories learned in class are relevant in real life situations. They get real-time exposure to tourism industry businesses, processes and issues, and can offer input for current challenges where their opinions are heard and valued! This brings an extraordinary level of experience to their learning process, developing a level of confidence, leadership expertise and personal growth that cannot be duplicated in any classroom or one-off field trip.

    "TIAO student membership benefits are also ongoing—students can get as much as they want out of it once they commit to participating."

    Eric, Kris & Virginia: "Our TIAO partnership has created a pathway for students to engage directly with organizations in the industry. TIAO partners have direct access to new talent entering the industry, and our Student Chapter members have a chance to see the inner workings of a variety of companies in a range of fields."

    "TIAO has had a tremendous impact for our organization by allowing students to get a perspective on how the tourism industry works. The Student Chapter at George Brown provides a space for students to apply their own knowledge, and bridge the gap between theory and real-life industry activity.

    "As students we’ve been exposed to more events and industry professionals then we ever thought we’d encounter while being school, and these opportunities have definitely enriched our learning experience at George Brown."


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Donna: "The level of involvement that’s offered to students, as well as the expertise shared. Students’ connection and communication with the provincial organization that speaks for the industry they are working hard to be part of makes students feel accepted and valued.

    "Support from the TIAO team and the benefits provided to GBC tourism students are immeasurable. There’s so much that can be developed through the creation of the Student Chapter, the learning doesn’t stop!"

    Eric, Kris & Virginia: "We like the fact that a provincial organization is taking interest in the students who will be the future of tourism in Ontario. It’s a terrific chance for us to learn from our industry partners, and to have our fresh new ideas heard."

    Kris: "I also personally enjoy how passionate TIAO is about building up the next generation of leaders within the tourism industry through their support of our student-run initiatives at school. After attending the “Tourism Mega Event” in Ottawa this past May, I got to witness first-hand how their advocacy impacts our industry, and it inspired me as to what type of leader I want to be."


    What are you working on right now?

    Donna: "I am currently working with TIAO to build a method of accreditation that can be awarded to student chapter ambassadors, in addition to students that embrace their TIAO memberships by being involved. Working with students to keep the TIAO Student Chapter and membership process sustainable has also been a focus for the chapter, among other special projects." 

    Eric, Kris & Virginia: "The GBC Student Chapter is looking ahead to the new semester, and planning activities to get our new students involved in TIAO. We also have a few social activities in the works to engage our TIAO partners, and encourage students to connect with others in the tourism industry.

    "We plan to have another industry panel discussion, where we have individuals from different sectors of the industry come in to share personal experiences, and answer questions students have about working in tourism and hospitality. This gives students a chance to further explore their future options and deepen their understanding of career possibilities, as well as create a positive networking environment."

    Many thanks to Donna, Eric, Kris and Virginia for answering our questions! We wish them all the best of luck in the upcoming school year and their future endeavours.

  • Find out what's next for Canada's #1 gated attraction see more

    We’re featuring a special TIAO Member each month to share with the #TourismFamily what they do, and how they connect with TIAO. Learn something new about your tourism industry colleagues, and the value of a TIAO Membership!

    July Member of the Month: Hornblower Niagara Cruises

    This month we talked to Mory DiMaurizio, General Manager at Hornblower Niagara Cruises.

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Who are you and what do you do? Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    “Hornblower Niagara Cruises is a day one experience. People tend to come see us on their first day in town, whether it’s for the (daytime) Voyage to the Falls, or evening fireworks cruises. Some folks also [visit] the lower landing for food, drinks and live entertainment, which not a lot of locals know about.”

    Mory emphasized, however, that it’s the physical waterfalls themselves that truly bring people to Niagara to experience Hornblower cruises.

    “All of us have that natural wonder to be thankful for—we [organize] our amenities and attractions and hotels and everything around it to accommodate the people that come to Niagara Falls. It’s the environment, it’s the city, it’s Niagara as a destination that’s so important.”

    Nevertheless, Hornblower Niagara Cruises has certainly seen success since it began operations in 2014.

    “Our passenger count went from 1.6 million in our first year, to around 2.4 million this year. We’re really proud of the fact we’re Canada’s number one gated attraction in terms of visitation.”

    Hornblower has received prestigious accolades for its work, including an award for Green Tourism for a commitment to sustainable tourism, and a 2018 Travelers’ Choice Award from TripAdvisor. The organization has also expanded operations in Niagara Falls to include on- and off-water experiences.

    “We have a purpose-built vessel just for private charters—we see a lot of celebrities and VIPs make good use of that. And for the land-based side of things, we [host] weddings, bar mitzvahs, all kinds of celebrations and events on a regular basis. We’re really a multi-faceted site, not just a boat tour anymore.”

    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    Hornblower Niagara Cruises has been a TIAO Member since 2014.

    “We’re part of the tourism community. As such, it’s important for us to join organizations and associations such as TIAO so that we’re strategically aligned with them, as well as with other partners and significant stakeholders within our region.

    “We’re because of tourism. People aren’t coming to Niagara Falls for any other specific purpose than to enjoy the wonderful space that is here: the environment, the parks, the water. All of us attractions, hoteliers, retailers, entertainers, everybody else in town really capitalizes on the fact that we are a tourist destination, which is why it’s important for us to always be aligned and support tourism associations like TIAO so long as we continue to be successful here in Niagara Falls.”


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    “It’s the gathering of information. When you get like-minded people together in associations, or at conferences [and] events—people striving to analyze the same information that you are—you can compare notes, compare experiences, get multiple data points and then seriously create your marketing and strategic plans on a go-forward basis by collaborating with TIAO and others.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Mory pointed to opportunities for networking, collaboration and information sharing as Hornblower’s favourite thing about TIAO.


    What are you working on right now?

    “One of the things that we’ve been working on this past year was the Hornblower Niagara Funicular. Before the elevator cars existed to get folks down to the lower landing at the bottom of the gorge, [the funicular] is what [transported them], 30 some odd years ago.

    “It was buried in the trees for quite a long time, decades. Working with the Niagara Parks Commission and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, we cleared the trees appropriately to make room for what would be a new funicular incline railway.

    “We created an old-but-new incline railway that’s been upgraded for capacity, is completely AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) compliant, and has all the bells and whistles of modern times built into it.”

    The Hornblower Niagara Funicular is enclosed in glass, showcasing 360-degree views of the Niagara Gorge. Groups or VIPs that ride the funicular will experience a new way of getting down into the gorge, as well as visually spectacular views while descending. The trip takes about three minutes.

    “It’s also a way for us to sustain the passenger growth that we’ve been experiencing for the last four years. The funicular has the same capacity as the four available elevator cars, so it represents our success going forward and the future of building the business.”

    Many thanks to Hornblower Niagara Cruises for being TIAO's Member of the Month for July, and to Mory for speaking with us during peak season! #TourismFamily

  • Learn about the services SÉO can provide for Ontario's tourism industry see more

    We’re featuring a special TIAO Member each month to share with the #TourismFamily what they do, and how they connect with TIAO. Learn something new about your tourism industry colleagues, and the value of a TIAO Membership!

    June Member of the Month: Société Économique de l'Ontario (SÉO)

    This month we talked to Martin Lacelle, Economic Development Director, and Isabelle de Bruyn, Tourism Manager at SÉO.

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Who are you and what do you do? Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    Martin: “Our mandate as an organization is to help promote and service Francophone businesses, or offer different niche types of services in the French language.

    “For example, in Ottawa, it’s easier to find French services. But going out to Toronto, or Southwestern Ontario, it can be complicated just to get a business support—coaching for marketing, for example. We help people and businesses on the ground find the services that they need for different niche markets.

    “There’s a lot of work that we do in terms of youth entrepreneurship and youth engagement, [in addition to] coaching and mentorship. We also work in terms of succession planning solutions, green [and sustainability] solutions, [etc.].”

    Tourism is one of the main niche sectors that SEO works with to provide a variety of French-language services.

    Martin: “We know that visitor markets are looking for French-language services in Ontario, especially Francophone [travel markets]. We want to make sure that when they come to Ontario, [visitors] feel comfortable with the language of their choice—whether French or English—and that they can have a great experience.” 


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    SEO has been a TIAO Member for one year.

    Isabelle: “Having a broad mandate for tourism, we decided that [SEO should be] a member of a [prominent] sector association.”

    Martin: “As a provincial organization, [TIAO] made sense for us.”

    Isabelle: "TIAO was an obvious [choice] to be a part of. Working with the tourism industry, we need to understand the issues that are at stake. For us, being a member shows that we are serious about what we do."

    Martin: "I think [TIAO and SEO] have many of the same priorities. Workforce shortage [for example] is an issue not necessarily only for [tourism], but for all Francophone markets."

    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Isabelle: “We saw the possibility for collaborating on projects tgorther. For us, [becoming a TIAO Member showed] we were serious about what we want to do in support of the tourism industry."

    Isabelle and Martin also mentioned that exposure at TIAO events was also a benefit of association membership.

    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Martin cited networking events and opportunities for partnership and collaboration.

    Isabelle’s favourite thing about TIAO is the weekly newsletter, and other information that TIAO provides about tourism in Ontario.


    What are you working on right now?

    Isabelle: “We’ve been working on the Route Champlain for three years with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport."

    Stemming from its work on the Route Champlain, SEO has also been instrumental in writing a three-year Francophone tourism strategy for the province.

    Coming up in September, SEO is also hosting a conference focused on sustainable tourism called Ecorismo. Hosted in partnership with François-Tourisme-Consultants (from France), the event is focussed on educating operators on how to reach markets in an eco-friendly manner. The conference will take place September 10 and 11, 2018 at the Westin Ottawa.


    We also talked with Martin and Isabelle about Francophone tourism development in Ontario, including the importance of having market-ready tourism products in both official Canadian languages. It was a great conversation! Thank you to SÉO for being TIAO's Member of the Month for June.

  • Find out what's coming up for Go Tours and Segway of Ontario see more

    We’re featuring a special TIAO Member each month to share with the #TourismFamily what they do, and how they connect with TIAO. Learn something new about your tourism industry colleagues, and the value of a TIAO Membership!

    May Member of the Month: Go Tours / Segway of Ontario

    This month we talked to Jason Rizzuti, Managing Partner, Segway of Ontario and Aaron Binder, Chief Experience Officer, Go Tours

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Who are you and what do you do? Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    Jason: “I’m responsible for pretty much everything. I’m managing partner, and Segway Grease Monkey—that’s my official title.”

    Aaron: “I do all the fun stuff: I talk to people, I get feedback, I talk to media and try to build new locations, like Ontario Place, which is launching in July.”

    Jason: “Go Tours is our tour and event business, and then Segway of Ontario [offers an equipment and vehicle] dealership, service, sales, all that kind of stuff.”

    Go Tours offers walking and Segway tours in Toronto’s Distillery District, school, bus and corporate tours and events in Toronto, and off-road Segway adventures at Hardwood Ski and Bike and Horseshoe Resort in Barrie. The organization has an equipment sales and distribution arm for Segway equipment and other vehicles, called Segway of Ontario.


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    Go Tours has been a TIAO Member for about 18 months.

    Jason: “We’d known about TIAO for the longest time, then finally we decided ‘OK we have to join, we’ve been operating this many years, we have to join and be part of the membership.'”

    Aaron: “I think part of it was, having been a business in Ontario’s tourism community for 14 years now, we saw [an opportunity] to take leadership and help newer businesses in the tourism industry to develop themselves in our market, as well as other markets. There’s such a big pie to go around these days, that the more competition there is, the better it is for all of us. So we’re really hoping that through our membership with TIAO, we’re able to take that leadership role to the next step, and make it a little bit more official as well.”

    Jason: “When we first started, our very first customer was actually a construction worker that was working on site here [in the Distillery District]. And he just wanted to give it a go, it looked kind of cool. But we joined Tourism Toronto fairly early on, because we knew being part of a DMO would hopefully bring us some brand awareness for what we do. But it took a few years even after that to get more exposure, [first with] Tourism Toronto, then to join the Toronto Attractions Council, then Attractions Ontario, and then TIAO.

    “We slowly realized that it’s important to be part of the industry if you want to be in the industry. Every time I meet with other operators or attractions similar to our size, [I ask them if they’re] a member of TIAO or Attractions Ontario. And I say: ‘because if you’re not, I think you should be. As a small business it works for us, and we get value out of it.'

    “I think that’s important. It’s not only about taking, it’s about giving back to the industry and others that you see around you.”



    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Jason: “One of the first things [is] the TIAO Newsletter. It’s nice to get a quick summary and snapshot every week, because there’s a lot of things that are happening in our industry, not only in our region but in the broader sense across the province and nationally. And it’s important to be made aware of them. There’s a lot of things I’ll forward [from the TIAO Newsletter] to a colleague of mine, because I didn’t know [about something] or [hadn’t] heard much about it. [For example], the new labour laws and things that have kicked in, and how they relate to tourism. So the newsletter is definitely an important part of it."**

    Jason also said that TIAO’s dissemination of industry event information, in addition to the association’s own provincial conference—the Ontario Tourism Summit—is a valuable part of Go Tours’s TIAO Membership. In addition, he referenced access to data and research as another valuable part of a TIAO Membership.

    Jason: “I may not have access to that information readily, or it might not come to my mind. But when it’s presented to me in a [weekly newsletter] or at an event, it [becomes digestible]. That’s why it’s important: I see the value, and it’s well worth it.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Jason: "The TIAO Newsletter. And Tourism Day at Queen’s Park."

    Aaron: “What I personally like most about TIAO is how well organized [the association is]. You have a great leadership team, any event you throw is done properly, any communication you put out is done properly, you’re easy to get to, and very quick to [respond to] any inquiries.”

    Jason: “[TIAO has] the best interests of the tourism industry [in mind]. Whether it’s helping to figure out the labour shortage, or being that champion for tourism on the government and legal side—that’s important. Without that, there’s a void. And not everybody realizes how important it is.”


    What are you working on right now?

    Aaron:This year, we're operating at our regular Barrie and Toronto locations. We're going into our 14th year in Toronto's Distillery District and our 10th year in Barrie. For 2018 in Barrie, we're emphasizing our tours at Hardwood Ski and Bike. They have absolutely gorgeous trails and views you simply can't get anywhere in Toronto. We're also excited to announce that we're opening another Toronto location this year at Ontario Place on Canada Day. We're a proudly Canadian-owned and operated small business, so this is a huge milestone for us.

    "The new tour at Ontario Place is extremely exciting because not only does it represent a new tour, but it represents a really cool new partnership with a very long-standing organization that is trying to reinvent itself right now, and it’s exciting to be a part of that. In the same way we were part of Horseshoe Valley's re-invention 10 years ago, and Hardwood Ski and Bike now, I think [the new installment of Segway tours is] going to be a really great way to create part of the new story for Ontario Place.”

    “We’ve done assessments there, and it’s going to be fantastic operation because the terrain is varied. It’s going to allow a little more speed and a little more terrain variance than what we have in the Distillery District.

    "Another really exciting thing is that Segway of Ontario has launched a number of new products in the last couple of years. Consumer products that are inexpensive, and are really fun to use. So we’re not just talking about new and exciting things with the tour company, but new and exciting things with the distribution and equipment company [as well]. We’re urging people to come down to our Distillery District location, make an appointment and try out some of our cool new vehicles."

    New products Segway of Ontario offers include mini-Segways and kick scooters!

    We also chatted with Jason and Aaron about workforce development, product development, rural tourism development and partnerships with other tourism businesses. It was an excellent conversation, and we thank Go Tours / Segway of Ontario for being TIAO's Member of the Month for May!

    **We absolutely love our members’ enthusiasm for the TIAO Newsletter, but you don’t actually have to be a TIAO Member to take advantage of this great resource! Subscribe here.

  • Find out more about the CTA, and how a TIAO Membership has benefitted their organization. see more

    We’re featuring a special TIAO Member each month to share with the #TourismFamily what they do, and how they connect with TIAO. Learn something new about your tourism industry colleagues, and the value of a TIAO Membership!

    April Member of the Month: Culinary Tourism Alliance

    This month we chatted with Agatha Podgorski, Director of Community Engagement (over lunch at a Feast On® certified restaurant, no less!). President & CEO Rebecca Mackenzie contributed to the interview via email.

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Who are you and what do you do? Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    Rebecca: We are the pioneers of developing food tourism in Ontario. The CTA (formerly the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance), came to exist to implement the 2005-2015 Ontario Culinary Tourism Strategy, commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

    "As experts in food tourism development, the CTA seeks to ensure that authentic food experiences become a significant economic driver for communities across Ontario, and a primary way for travellers to enrich their experience.”

    Agatha: “We essentially work on three main initiatives. [First,] we have a consulting arm that works globally to help destinations around the world at all scales undertake regionally specific, thoughtful and sustainable food tourism development. That can be the creation of an experience, an event or stakeholder engagement and education.

    “The second pillar we have is Ontario Culinary, our membership-based program. [We] support destination marketing organizations, regional tourism organizations, sector and commodity organizations and post-secondary institutions with development of food tourism products, storytelling around food identity in the province, and connecting directly with the people and places that make our food scene here in Ontario so rich and diverse.

    “[CTA’s third main initiative is] a food service certification program called Feast On® . We provide authentication, tools and resources for businesses claiming that they work with local food to grow and flourish. More importantly, we look at their books, we open them up, and make sure that they’re practicing what they preach, so that consumers can be sure they’re eating Ontario food, if that's what they’re after.

    “We look at how much [participating businesses are] spending on Ontario grown food. If they’re spending more than 25%, they get the certification. If they’re not, we provide introductions and resources for them to up their procurement. Ultimately, we want everyone to be using more local food.

    “We then build on that by introducing those people to the DMOs and RTOs who have the resources (both human and financial) to promote those experiences as the best and brightest in the province. It’s one thing to support big brands who are importing and doing mass-produced foods, but if you’re supporting restaurants with really unique experiences that are supporting local farmers, you’re supporting more and more layers of Ontario’s economy, and building capacity for places that might not necessarily have it otherwise.”


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    The CTA became a TIAO Member in 2012. From 2012-2015, TIAO and CTA partnered to deliver their respective annual conferences. The two organizations also used to share office space.

    Rebecca: “We became a member because we value the work that TIAO does on behalf of the tourism industry--advocacy, industry education and the networking platform it provides.”

    Agatha: “We were working really hard to get in front of people in government that we needed to reach. We needed to make them realize that [culinary tourism and agritourism] needed to be a priority in a place like Ontario. Small business owners in food service and agriculture don’t have the time to make those kinds of connections, and do that kind of [advocacy] work. We needed someone who had valuable relationships, who could push our agenda on our behalf, and support us as we grew this in the province.”


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Agatha: “Originally, I think a big draw in why we wanted to get involved and work closer with [TIAO] was mentorship. We were executing a provincial strategy that was driven by destination marketing organizations who thought this was valuable, and needed guidance on how to get government more involved.”

    Rebecca: “It’s kept us in the loop and connected. We’ve had opportunities to leverage our membership with TIAO to increase awareness of food tourism, and food tourism development across Ontario. [Additionally, TIAO has] given us platforms to celebrate food tourism excellence both at their annual Summit as well as key events including Tourism Day at Queen's Park.”

    Agatha: “The active, constant access to resources and news in the provincial tourism industry is [also] big for us.

    “[TIAO] constantly having [its] ear to the ground, and knowing what’s happening helps us build our strategy for the year, and figure out what are the priorities for our regions and our stakeholders.”


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    Rebecca: “How [the association stays] engaged, stays on top of all the current issues that the tourism industry is facing, brings solutions to us, and provides leadership.”

    Agatha: “The staff! Can we talk about how amazing and passionate the staff are? They go above and beyond, they’re always a pleasure.”


    What are you working on right now?

    Rebecca: “We’re wrapping up food tourism strategies for the City of Kawarthas, City of Sudbury and Algoma Country, and we're starting to work on projects in Kingston and Temiskaming. Our consulting work is keeping us busy in Banff & Lake Louise, the province of New Brunswick and overseas in Scotland, too!

    “We are constantly bringing new restaurants into the Feast On® certification program, and working to promote our Preferred Purveyors in the program too! We have Fishstock coming up May 14th at the University of Guelph in partnership with OceanWise, and Winestock on June 26th at George Brown College in partnership with VQA Wines of Ontario.”

    Thank you to the CTA for being TIAO's Member of the Month for April, and to Rebecca and Agatha for speaking with us! #TourismFamily 

    Ironically, neither Agatha nor Rebecca are included in the CTA team photo below :)

  • Find out why the MTCC is a TIAO Member, and what the organization is currently focussed on. see more

    We’re featuring a special TIAO Member each month to share with the #TourismFamily what they do, and how they connect with TIAO. Learn something new about your tourism industry colleagues, and the value of a TIAO Membership!

    March Member of the Month: Metro Toronto Convention Centre

    This month we chatted with Barry Smith, President and CEO, MTCC

     Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.


    Who are you and what do you do?

     The Metro Toronto Convention Centre is both Canada and Ontario’s largest convention centre.

     MTCC was one of TIAO’s first members!

    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    Organizations such as ours—which are involved in the meetings, conventions and trade show industries—depend on a good public policy framework to be successful in doing business.

    TIAO is the organization that spends most of its time (if not all of its time!) thinking about public policy initiatives that affect industry. Minimum wage, tips legislation, cost competitiveness, the hotel tax—all these things that create an environment that’s either competitive, or has negative impacts on business.

    Business conditions impacted by public policy are important to our [success]. Are we a cost competitive environment? Are we introducing new legislation that’s either an impediment to, or aiding and abetting the type of business we’re in? This is where we rely on TIAO as being a voice of our industry.

    MTCC also finds value in its TIAO membership via partnership opportunities with the association, for the benefit of our industry. For example, the convention centre actively supports TIAO’s Careers in Tourism Awareness Campaign.


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    The effectiveness of TIAO’s position as a voice for Ontario’s tourism industry. As an organization, TIAO is open and transparent in its positions. [The association] is clearly showing forward momentum of building [its] brand as an effective communicator, which is important to our industry.


    What are you working on right now?

    We work in a very competitive industry. There’s no doubt that many communities have come to recognize the economic benefit that comes from business events. So keeping our venue up to speed, contemporary and competitive to the marketplace—whether that be [through] technology, new space, raising the level of fit and finish, or providing new services that are expected in the marketplace—is clearly a focus of the management team. We put a lot of money back into the facility.

    The second thing we put a lot of focus on is working with our hotel partners and Tourism Toronto to bring more business to Toronto, whether it be international, American or domestic. Because [we’re in] a very competitive field, a lot of the industry’s collective weight is behind that—and we’re having great success. There’s no doubt that the industry right now is achieving record numbers—we, too, are achieving record numbers—[but] how do we continue that? How do we stay at a higher level of occupancy for a longer period of time?

    Lastly I would say we’re turning our mind to a longer-term future of what [type of] asset Toronto will need as we go forward, particularly as relates to the convention centre. Will an expanded convention centre make sense in Toronto? Will this building, which has a particular physical configuration, be improved by changing that? What other opportunities are there? So we’re turning our minds to what does that strategic vision look like, getting the right consulting expertise, comparing ourselves to other communities, really watch[ing] what’s happening, and what makes a city successful in the marketplace that we’re dominant in, which is conventions and business events..

    MTCC is also committed to workforce strategy and development within the tourism industry. The convention centre demonstrated this support by hosting the inaugural Careers in Tourism Symposium on March 26.

    Thank you to MTCC for being the March TIAO Member of the Month, and thank you to Barry Smith for speaking with us! #TourismFamily 

  • Learn more about Attractions Ontario, one of TIAO's inaugural members see more

    We’re featuring a special TIAO Member each month to share with the #TourismFamily what they do, and how they connect with TIAO. Learn something new about your tourism industry colleagues, and the value of a TIAO Membership!

    February Member of the Month: Attractions Ontario

    This month we chatted with the following members of the Attractions Ontario team: Troy Young, President & CEO; Phil Casey, Director of Business Development; Kate March, Director of Communications; and Kathrine Christensen, Chair of the Board of Directors.

     Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity.

    Who are you and what do you do? Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    Troy: “We are an industry trade association representing over 500 attractions, DMOs, RTOs and accommodations. We are predominantly a marketing organization that helps promote our members in a pan-provincial format. Our goal is to raise the [profile] of our members with the travelling public, both from Ontario and from outside the province.”

    Sourcing new benefits and partnership opportunities for association members is another big part of what the organization does.

    Phil: “We never try to be stagnant. We always try to add more benefits to being a member [and] working with us.”


    How long have you been a TIAO Member and why did you join?

    Troy: “We’ve been there right from the beginning—we were an inaugural TIAO Member. [We joined because] we believe in what TIAO is trying to do [regarding advocacy].

    “It’s good to have somebody acting as your collective voice, particularly in the government relations field. We do some government relations work on our own, but when it comes to issues that are going to affect the entire tourism industry, it’s better to have that one voice.”

    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    The Attractions Ontario team said that in general, TIAO’s advocacy work as the main source of value for their membership with the association.

    Kathrine: “It’s important [to be a member of an advocacy association such as TIAO], because Attractions Ontario is the conduit to hundreds of small tourism businesses in Ontario. These are businesses that aren't necessarily able to take the time and the money to interact closely [with government] on their own.

    “So having Attractions Ontario bring them information [from TIAO] and disseminate it—that’s the biggest value.”

    Katherine noted that the information-sharing relationship travels in the other direction as well.

    Kathrine: “The needs of the individual (small and large) attractions get funnelled to Attractions Ontario, and then comes back to TIAO in an aggregate form, that makes it beneficial [for everyone involved].”

    DYK: TIAO extends certain membership perks to members of associations that are also TIAO Members. For example, members of Attractions Ontario can also take advantage of affordable group benefit rates through TIAO’s partnership with Group Lockhart.

    What are you working on right now?

    Launched at the end of 2017, Phil has been orchestrating tourism information, education and development workshops in different regional tourism areas across the province. Organized in conjunction with the region’s respective RTO, Phil present opportunities for working with Attractions Ontario, the participating RTO, and also local DMOs when applicable. However, educating local businesses on their identity as tourism attractions is a big part.

    Phil: “One of the main focusses of our outreach [is] trying to explain to people that yes, you are an attraction. An attraction is anything that draws people to an area. It could be a forest, it could be a trail, it could be a restaurant, it could be a museum. Just because you don’t have a ticket counter doesn’t mean it’s not an attraction, [and] having to educate people on that is a big thing.

    "The goal is to [organize educational workshops across the Ontario], because the definition of tourism has changed, the definition of an attraction has changed, and we’re trying to make sure people know that.”

    In essence, Attractions Ontario workshops focus on “How to Tourism”—they tell attendees how they can get involved with Attractions Ontario, and also their local RTO and DMOs.

    Phil: “We’re trying to build the region up. The main goal is to show them who we are, increase awareness of what they can do, and how to work with people in their area.”

    Another initiative Attractions Ontario is working on (and that also launched last year) is the Blogger Program.

    Kate: “Influencers and bloggers are a really big deal right now. [Engaging them is] a great way to get a regular person out to your attraction, tweeting and instagramming the pictures of what they can experience [at your attraction, to their followers].

    “[Some influencers have] thousands and thousands of followers looking, and it’s an easy, cheap way for [Attractions Ontario members] to get their message out to an audience that [they] may not actually have right now.

    “We vet [the bloggers] and find them for the attractions [on our end], so it’s a great opportunity that a lot of our members are really enjoying.

    Kate manages a growing list of vetted bloggers and influencers that she recommends to produce content for various attractions. Members of Attractions Ontario can reach out to Kate to get involved, but the team also shares information about the program with new members, and as part of Phil’s outreach workshops. So far, not a single Attractions Ontario member that has participated in the Blogger Program has said they wouldn’t do it again.

    New for 2018, Attractions Ontario is embarking on a new partnership with Destination Ontario and TripAdvisor. Part of the partnership involves Attractions Ontario advertising on TripAdvisor through Destination Ontario. Additionally, a TripAdvisor representative will be speaking at Attractions Ontario’s AGM in May.

    Thank you to the Attractions Ontario team for being Februrary's TIAO Member of the Month #TourismFamily

  • Get the scoop on Headwaters Tourism, TIAO's Member of the Month for January see more

    TIAO is featuring one of its members each month to share with the #TourismFamily what they do, and how they get involved with our association. Learn something new about your tourism industry colleagues, and see the different ways you can collaborate with us!

    January Member of the Month: Headwaters Tourism

    This month we chatted with Michele Harris, CEO of Headwaters Tourism

    Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity


    Who are you and what do you do? Tell us about your organization and its role within Ontario’s tourism industry.

    Headwaters Tourism is a destination marketing organization—we’re a not-for-profit that’s been around since 1994.

    We started out as a traditional visitor services supplier, but over the last seven or eight years, we’ve really had a paradigm shift in how we operate. We’ve moved away from simply providing visitor services, to a role in business and economic development, pushing tourism as a critical part of the economic development strategies of our partner municipalities.

    Geographically, we represent 2,534 kms2 of Ontario. About an hour northwest of Pearson International Airport, Headwaters has an interesting dynamic, in that we cross three different regions: Caledon (part of Peel Region), eight municipalities in Dufferin County, and the Town of Erin (part of Wellington County). Those municipalities came together back in 1994, because of the way visitors came to this collective area—travel patterns were similar, and [so was] product synergy.

    Right now we are funded by those municipalities at a rate of $1.52 per capita, so our operating budget is just a little over $200,000 a year. Our role has shifted; we have two core functions, or, we say, two core audiences. We have the visitor audience—we fancy ourselves storytellers and curators of content for the area. We position the voice of Headwaters as the voice of this quirky area to visitors from far and wide.

    On the other side, we are very much a business development organization as well. We work to help our businesses go further in their tourism development, [and] to develop stronger experiences, but also to move businesses that may not be in the tourism sphere—but have the availability to do so, or the potential to grow their business through tourism—move along that continuum.


    What initiatives are you working on right now?

    We continue to push our “Where Ontario Gets Real” brand. Part of our storytelling and content curation role is seeking out those interesting and compelling visitor experiences, as well as what we call our “faces of Headwaters”:  the embodiment of our Real Ontario brand promise. Every year in May we launch our new consumer marketing campaign—right now we’re working on developing that campaign and its content.

    We just hosted (in partnership with other destinations from across the province) a
    Rural Tourism Symposium. We’re trying to collaborate beyond our Headwaters borders, and work with our colleagues across the province who are doing great work. To describe the fundamental belief in what we do, we use the word “co-opetition”. If we share experiences, and all communicate back and forth with our tourism partners, we all raise the bar for tourism.

    From a product development point of view, we have a couple of things on the horizon. We’re working on trying to move into the cycling tourism sphere; this year [we’ll be working with] the Greenbelt and Ontario By Bike. We’re also exploring something around electric vehicles and tourism—we think there’s a considerable opportunity here to encourage green and clean travel, so we’re trying to work with our municipal partners to ensure that we have infrastructure support for those green travellers.

    Why did you join TIAO?

    As a small tourism organization, we get really caught up in the ‘busy’ work of doing our own jobs. We’ve done a lot of development work over the past five years, and we’re proud of where we’ve taken this organization on our own. But we started to realize that by not engaging with our provincial colleagues, perhaps we were being overlooked, and we weren’t benefiting our own tourism operators in the area.

    TIAO is the industry body who represents tourism. We started to monitor what TIAO was doing in regards to advocacy, [and became familiar with] business issues that we may not have looked at in any substantial way for tourism development in Headwaters.

    TIAO communicated important issues that were coming forward in our industry, that we felt our operators needed to benefit from as well. Part of our facilitation role is 
    making those connections, and encouraging our own operators and municipal partners to engage at that level.

    Now when we have an issue—like the Municipal Accommodation Tax—we can call and connect, and find out what’s going on. We use TIAO’s weekly newsletter content, and share that with our operators through our own
    B2B website.

    Our TIAO membership has helped us gain credibility among our municipal partners, and our colleagues. We’re now more connected—we’re not this little group that works on our own.


    How has being a member of TIAO provided value for your organization?

    TIAO has supported our work on the industry side. We say we’re matchmakers and facilitators; because we’re a very small team, we can’t take on all of the responsibilities ourselves. But we’re pretty connected, and pretty knowledgeable of the tourism industry—we can find the right people. So if we have an operator come to us looking to do something interesting, we can match them with other operators in our area. We can also connect them to other municipal, provincial and federal agencies, so that they can move along the tourism continuum. TIAO is a valuable resource for us, supporting our own facilitation role.


    What’s your favourite thing about TIAO and why?

    First, the people. We have a network now! It’s like we’ve expanded our own Headwaters staff by linking with TIAO. We didn’t have that before. The other thing is the curation of information—TIAO supplies us with industry information on topics we need some insight on, to be able to share with our operators and our municipal partners.


    What is one piece of advice you would give to an organization that wants to get involved in advocacy initiatives with TIAO?

    Put your hand up and engage. I think success of advocacy, or any kind of business development, is keeping the dialogue open, and having that conversation. It’s really easy to sit back, knit your brow, and question and critique people, but what we do at Headwaters, and what my colleagues do around the province, is where tourism happens at the grassroots, so we need to communicate our insights back to TIAO and our other provincial/federal tourism agencies.

    It’s really hard for any kind of advocacy organization to advocate if they don’t hear what’s happening in the field. I think it’s part of our obligation—yes, TIAO is an advocacy group and that’s part of [the organization’s] role—but we also have a responsibility to work with you. It’s a collaborative effort.

    I encourage our tourism regions and partners to collaborate with like-minded organizations across the province. We’ve learned so much from our colleagues, who are doing great things. The more we share the passion for the industry, the better we’ll all do. Working on our own doesn’t help anybody.

    Thank you to Michele and the Headwaters team for being our first TIAO Member of the Month #TourismFamily