I can’t believe summer has come to an end. Where did the season go? It seems like we ask ourselves this question every year. This year has been filled with challenges for many of our operators, and I believe it is organizations like NOTO, along with fellow operators and community that have helped us all pull through. I am very thankful to be a part of an organization that has the history, credibility, connections, and knowledge to be able to offer assistance, and go to bat for its members in times of need on a wide range of issues.
Membership in NOTO is an investment in your business and the industry we all love. It is OUR collective voice at the table with government and related associations that will help to shape the future of the tourism industry in Ontario.
How can you help? Renew your membership. Another way, is to become engaged and nominate a member for the Board. Board nominations are essential for a vibrant and healthy organization. We are fortunate to have a strong board of knowledgeable member/operators, and I encourage you to join us at the Board table by standing yourself, or nominating someone that you feel would be an asset to the organization.
At NOTO we have been going through a Strategic Planning process that will help guide us into the future. I encourage all members to respond to calls, emails, surveys etc. and take part in Focus Groups for your area. The feedback we receive from this process is essential for the growth of NOTO as the voice for Nature & Outdoor Tourism in Ontario. This is a way that YOU can tell us what we are doing right, and where we need to improve. This is your organization, and this is how you can effect change. We value your input.
This is also the time of year that we prepare for the Northern Ontario Tourism Summit. The Summit will be held November 13-15 at the Quattro Hotel & Conference Centre in Sault Ste. Marie ON. You can register for the summit by going to northernontariotourismsummit.ca NOTO and Tourism Northern Ontario work very hard to bring great value to tourism operators. The connections that I have made and the information I have learned by attending this annual event, have helped me greatly in our business. The speakers and workshops are on a wide range of topics, from digital marketing, fire safety, succession planning, working with tourism partners and more. The round tables, focus groups offer great ways to share and gain much needed knowledge from those within the industry.
The forest fires throughout the north this year were a harsh reality that many of us had to deal with. Both Laurie and I spoke to the media including CBC about the impact that the fires were having on our industry and operators. We took part in a series of calls coordinated by Northeastern Ontario Tourism that brought together operators, tourism organizations, Government as well as product and service suppliers. These calls allowed us to hear from those on the ground the exact challenges they were facing.
I also called a few operators and organizations to check in and see how they were doing. What was frustrating was the impact the media had on tourism and not in a positive way. I was increasingly aggravated that many outlets in Southern Ontario were pushing out the message to avoid the north all together or that we were closed due to smoke/fire and this was often not the case. I spoke with both RTO12 and RTO13, and was happy to see that they were sending out the message that the north was indeed open for business! I did a series of Facebook Live videos and answered an incredible amount of calls, emails and Facebook Messages as it related to the forest fires of Northeastern and Central ON where our camp is located. I am thankful that tourists put their trust in me and believed me when I said the air quality was fine and that we were safe from the fire. A tough message to get across when the weather network, media and even some of the provincial parks were posting a different message. I am profoundly thankful for the dedicated fire service members who worked tirelessly to get the forest fires under control and protect what we value most.
The takeaway from the forest fire situation is that in times of need operators came together to help each other, along with cottage and tourist associations. There is also a genuine need for communities and the tourism industry to learn more about the Fire Smart Program. I believe strongly that organizations such as NOTO are a large Tourism Family and we look after our own. It was also a powerful reminder that our guests put their trust in us to provide them with correct information as it relates to their experience at our facility, our community, our business and our environment. We need to honour that trust by doing our best to provide them with an experience that meets or exceeds their expectations, and being open, honest and timely responding to their inquiries.
Wishing everyone a busy & prosperous fall season.