Tourism champion up for provincial award
By Angelica Ingram
Published Oct. 18, 2016
There isn’t much going on in the Haliburton Highlands that Barrie Martin isn’t somehow involved with.
The founder of Yours Outdoors and a former biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Martin has been a champion of the Haliburton Highlands and its offerings for many decades.
Last week it was announced he was selected to be one of three finalists for the Tourism Champion of the Year Award, a provincial honour that will be handed out next month at the Ontario Tourism Summit in Ottawa.
Martin was nominated by Rick Whitteker, a friend and colleague who submitted a nomination that was five pages long and included all of the initiatives and projects Martin has spearheaded or is involved with.
“He’s such a good collaborator and bridge builder,” said Whitteker. “He has such strong people skills, which is well suited for the tourism industry ... he’s just really good at organizing all kinds of things, not just music ... and hiking festivals. He’s a really big force in the tourism industry in Haliburton County and I just felt he deserved recognition.”
Among those initiatives is Yours Outdoors, Martin’s business that creates experiential tourism packages for visitors to the Haliburton Highlands, strong collaboration with the Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO), founder of Adventure Haliburton, coordinator of the county’s annual Hike Haliburton Festival, volunteer roles with various arts related organizations such as the Haliburton County Folk Society and the list goes on.
“Yours Outdoors provides a service that does not exist or is rare in tourism regions,” wrote Whitteker in his nomination package. “Yours Outdoors develops multi supplier packages by working with a number of experience and service providers in the community, fostering collaboration between tourism operators and other non-traditional partners.”
According to Whitteker, as a result of Martin’s work, he has been retained by OHTO to facilitate package development workshops across the region, approximately 25 to date.
Last week OHTO communications co-ordinator Jennifer Gilmer said the prestigious award Martin is up for is a chance to recognize those who have made significant contributions to Ontario’s tourism industry.
“We’ve had the pleasure of working with Barrie for a number of years now and are thrilled his dedication to both the tourism industry and our guests is being recognized.” said Nicole Whiting, executive director of OHTO in a press release. “With the leadership he’s shown towards increasing visitation through improving the visitor experience and establishing partnerships across the region, this is an honour well-deserved.”
Martin is humbled by both the honour and the recognition.
“Anything that brings more attention to the Haliburton Highlands, that’s a good thing too,” he said. “I certainly have been involved in a lot of projects so it’s nice to be recognized for making a contribution.”
Prior to launching his business Yours Outdoors in 2006, Martin worked at the now defunct Frost Centre, where he had various roles that coincided with tourism and nature.
“When I worked for the Frost Centre, I was there for 28 years co-ordinating the public education program. A lot of that programming was educational in nature but there was also tourism involved because people were using the Frost Centre for a variety of reasons, on trails and such.”
Before his time at the Frost Centre, Martin worked in provincial parks, such as Bon Echo and Sharbot Lake.
A resident of the Haliburton County for the past 40 years, Martin, 64, has a passion for the area for a variety of reasons.
“I’m inspired by what the county has to offer in terms of landscapes and there’s interesting people doing interesting things,” he said. “For my business I don’t have to create the experiences because they’re all here.”
Martin said he believes there is a spirit of collaboration in the Highlands with those in the tourism industry striving towards a common goal.
He says there are great examples of innovative projects taking place in the county, such as the tourism stakeholders initiative and more.
Martin has travelled the region and beyond to participate in conferences and talk about topics ranging from collaborations and partnerships to promoting folk music initiatives.
Martin plans on attending the provincial summit in Ottawa next month for the awards ceremony.
He has seen many changes to the area’s tourism industry, mostly positive ones, resulting in more people coming to the area.
The most recent Hike Haliburton Festival, for example, had close to 2,400 participants, up from previous years.
Although he is approaching retirement age, Martin isn’t ready to hang up his hiking boots just yet. And even when he does retire, he plans to always be an advocate for the area.
“This community has given so much to me so it’s not hard to give back to the community.”