At a time when COVID was still limiting travel, and only small regulated groups could be together, the Town of Collingwood launched a promotional event bringing eight award-winning craft beverage producers together creating a Craft Beverage Tour. It was a morale booster for the community providing residents and visitors alike with a fun way to get to socialise safely and support the growing craft beverage industry in Collingwood industry in Collingwood. The goal in creating Collingwood’s Craft Beverage Tour was to establish Collingwood as Ontario’s Craft beverage Capital- a destination for weekend visitors and drive traffic and sales for our 8 beverage produces to ensure their survival though COVID and beyond.
1. To support the continued growth of the industry during the pandemic, through industry wide promotional efforts which replaced large scale events typically the mainstay of this sector.
Foster collaboration and encourage cross promotion among businesses. The self-serve tour can be done on foot, by bike or by car encouraged patrons to visit more than one establishment by giving them easy to use maps, prizes with a multi-visit passport, and paired them with craft food establishments to broaden opportunities for promotion.
3. The two key target audiences for the Craft Beverage Tour were (permanent and seasonal) residents of South Georgian Bay and weekend visitors from the GTA and S.Ontario.
The Craft Beverage Tour was promoted via website, social media, signage, posters, radio and location videos. Within the broader category of visitors, the tour was meant to appeal to foodies and drink enthusiasts who are interested in experiencing food, drink and products that are unique to a specific region or small scale establishment. An interactive “Meet the Producers” via webinar allowed 168 attendees to learn about the process and unique features of the products. Local restaurants were paired with beverage producers, offering in house opportunities for cross-marketing.
The Craft Beverage Tour had significant budget constraints and was made possible through creative partnerships and collaboration including the Collingwood BIA and Simcoe County grants. The program operated with a budget of less than $8,000 dedicated through the Town, the majority of the effort being handled in house through our staff team. The initiative not only helped producers survive the pandemic, but has built up their collective profile growing the industry now and in the long term. In 2020 it was a two month event, and in 2021 and current, we are now a year round event promoting 4 craft breweries, 4 distilleries, 7 craft food destinations. (see endorsement letters)
WHY THIS INITIATIVE IS UNIQUE
The pandemic fostered innovation as all industries struggled to adapt to new constraints, and the Craft Beverage tour is an excellent example of positive initiatives which emerged from a challenging situation. The tour, both in format and the process of leveraging collective energy of independent businesses in order to establish and promote a destination or sector wide profile- is one which is highly replicable for other industries and locations. It was innovative in three key areas: as a unique solution to pandemic related challenges, as an integrated and flexible use platform and finally, as a collective effort with many participants.
Flexible and Sustainable: The tour itself was self-guided, providing flexibility for users and encouraged walking and biking as safe and sustainable modes of transportation. Local tourism, especially when it promotes locally grown food and small scale producers, is a part of an essential shift to a more sustainable type of travel. The creative energy and collaborative goodwill they contributed was key to the success of the tour in 2020, then expanded to 2021 and 2022 and is self-sustaining.