OHTO manager visits county 0
Ontario's Highlands Tourism Organization manager Nicole Whiting visited Haliburton County councillors on Sept. 19.
Haliburton County continues working with Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization as it attempts to heighten the profile of the Haliburton Highlands.
OHTO manager Nicole Whiting visited members of the county’s tourism development committee at a Sept. 19 meeting.
Whiting was there to talk about programming and strategy, “and most importantly to emphasize everybody’s roles in this new environment.”
The regional tourism organizations – there are 13 in Ontario – were created by the province as a means of promoting tourism in 2010.
OHTO focuses on product development, such as its recreational geology project, as well as destination marketing and workforce development, which includes customer service.
“How do we communicate to the businesses that think they’re doing fine [with customer service], but they’re not?” asked Dysart et al Reeve and County Warden Murray Fearrey.
There have been workshops hosted locally, but Fearrey said challenges continue.
“We need to start with the ones that are doing it well,” Whiting said, adding that those businesses should lead by example.
She said that OHTO also offers an assessment process that some business owners have found helpful.
Fearrey also had concerns about the use of the website tripadvisor.ca, which allows people to post reviews of businesses.
“All it takes is one bad review,” he said, adding he’s even heard stories of competing businesses bashing each other online.
“The benefits of Trip Advisor far outweigh the negatives,” Whiting reassured him.
Minden Hills Reeve Barb Reid thought the county should be working more closely with the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce, using the chamber’s monthly breakfast meetings as a venue to spread the word on good customer service techniques.
Reid said she also wanted to see more obvious links to the OHTO site on the county’s website and more prominent display of weekend packages and promotional offers.
“That’s exactly what’s going to get people in the GTA going, ‘I’m in,’” Reid said. “If you can’t see it, you can’t do it.”
The county is in the process of revamping its website having hired The Faren Group to do the redesign and Whiting said OHTO could help out.
“We’ll show you what has worked for us in terms of key words,” she said.
According to a recent release from Tourism Haliburton, Haliburton County is improving its placement on Google servers when people search “Ontario resorts.”
Algonquin Highlands Reeve Carol Moffatt sits on the website’s steering committee and said the creation of a Haliburton Highlands YouTube channel is being considered with the development of the new site.
Whiting said OHTO has video footage of the Highlands – some shot just last week – that could be used.
The Haliburton Highlands are grouped with the Ottawa Valley to form OHTO.
The regional tourism organizations are funded through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to the tune of $40 million annually.
Less than a million of that is allocated to OHTO, as it accounts for just 2.5 per cent of the province’s tourism and allocations are made on a proportional basis.
According to Whiting, tourism ranks as the ninth largest export industry in Ontario.