• 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