Tourism champion celebrates another win
By Sue Tiffin
Published Nov. 14, 2017
Barrie Martin is bringing awards home to the Highlands.
This year, he added a Sustainable Tourism Award with his name on it to his award cabinet, where it will sit with pride next to last year’s Tourism Champion of the Year award. Both prizes come from the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario and were awarded at the annual Ontario Tourism Awards of Excellence.
“You get a pretty decent chunk of hardware, it’s like a glass Oscar,” laughed Martin. “There’s not too much room for more, but that’s OK.”
Martin was nominated for the award by Heather Reid, operations director of Abbey Gardens. In the submission form she praised Yours Outdoors adventure company, which Martin owns and operates.
“Yours Outdoors’ experience packages are original, engaging, enlightening and designed to connect visitors with communities and the great outdoors,” she wrote.
Reid noted numerous ways in which Yours Outdoors, through Martin’s work, has “lived” the principles and practices of sustainable and green tourism, including through the support of local economies, businesses and communities, by maintaining small-group sizes to limit negative social and environmental impacts, offering low impact non-motorized recreational activities, avoiding use of disposables and recycling whenever possible, being aware of and avoiding environmentally sensitive areas and respecting and appreciating cultural diversity.
In 2016, Yours Outdoors hosted more than 300 travellers to the area.
“These experiences provided opportunities for travellers to learn about and engage with the local community – scenic spaces, friendly folks, remarkable heritage, and the amazing art of Haliburton Highlands,” Reid wrote. “Many of the experiences helped make connections with the natural world. It is hoped this greater awareness and understanding of ecosystems, biodiversity, and green living will help people develop a set of values and beliefs and commit to living more sustainably on this earth.”
Additionally, Martin’s Telling Our Stories speaker series has raised approximately $1,500 to be donated to half a dozen local conservation organizations, and he brought people outdoors for the first annual Hardwater Festival – a Celebration of Ice last year. He co-chairs the Haliburton Highlands Tourism Stakeholders Committee, is a founding member of Adventure Haliburton, and works closely with Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization. Reid said he is an example and model of experiential and sustainable tourism product for other operators in Haliburton County, in the Ontario’s Highlands region, and in the province.
The award was presented to Martin by CBC’s Heather Hiscox at the annual summit held this year in Niagara Falls and finalists for all awards were listed in a full page ad published in The Globe and Mail.
“That can’t help but give more exposure for your business,” said Martin.
He knew he was one of the three finalists in the category, but was surprised to hear his name called, just as he was last year.
“[By winning] you’re just recognized more in the industry, and of course when you win twice, there’s a greater recognition there or greater exposure when you’ve been up on the podium twice,” he said. “It takes a village, right. I work with so many partners locally that provide experiences and provide destinations, I would hope this exposure also benefits the Haliburton Highlands and the tourism region we’re in. That’s hopefully a benefit of the award.”
Other categories in the Tourism Industry Awards of Excellence include the Accessible Tourism Award, the Tourism Employer of the Year, Tourism Innovator of the Year, Tourism Event of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award.
Even with his own win, Martin continues to strive to promote tourism in the area, and the Highlands in general.
“There’s so many great things happening in our tourism region, when they put out a call for nominations, we just need to make a point of nominating other businesses or other people or marketing campaigns, whatever is going on there, and make sure we do have nominations in there,” he said. “I know that in another year, I’m certainly going to be nominating something in one or more of the categories just to give back to the community in that regard.”
“It can’t hurt the community for sure,” he adds.