The ‘From Great to Grand: Growing Experiential Tourism’ program was a recovery initiative designed by Tourism Haldimand and Haldimand County Economic Development to provide post-COVID relief to the tourism industry. The program aimed to engage stakeholders new to tourism, as well as seasoned operators, to consider new ways to diversify their business, welcome visitors, and access the tourism economy with the goal of creating new revenue streams via the development of four seasonably sustainable, low volume/high value tourism experiences. With the tourism sector struggling post-COVID, this was an opportunity to not only foster robust year-round tourism programming within the area but also encourage the development of immersive, experiential offerings that foster local business-to-business partnerships and collaborations.
‘From Great to Grand’ provided participants with wraparound support provided by certified experience development coaches. It included the delivery of experiential development curriculum, ideal guest identification, pricing/costing projections, program templating, piloting (attended by industry experts for feedback), custom marketing strategies, development of digital assets and content (blog, video & photo), industry expert consultations, and launch supports (ecommerce, website development and online advertising campaigns).
An overarching objective of ‘Great to Grand’ was creating sustainable tourism programming. To achieve this, the coaching team guided participants in developing experiences that:
While each participant’s programming displays all aspects of these objectives, there are particular highlights from each. Forest Fit’s hiking experience is a zero-carbon-footprint endeavour. Rabi’s Grand Kitchen experience utilizes oversupply & aesthetically imperfect products from local farms that would otherwise go unused. Cottonwood Museum Mansion uses local food partners and, true to the Victorian-era it represents, uses all-natural inputs across all programming. Potting Shed’s programming relies heavily on a local chef and sommelier to make their tourism experience deliverable despite an already-demanding business operation.
Participants adhered to a strict four-month development timeline to bring their ideas from conception to market-readiness. These new tourism offerings were actualized through a robust development schedule that saw participants fleshing out comprehensive programming, developing meaningful community partnerships, and ultimately bringing their experiences to market with the assistance of digital marketing assets and strategies.
While the program was a success, challenges and adaptations occurred. For example, members of the video production crew tested positive for COVID days before the scheduled film dates. Contingency dates had been previously secured with the video production company in the event of unforeseen circumstances. These dates were utilized and the program delivery was only minimally disrupted as a result. Another challenge was securing a location/venue for two of the participants who did not own or lease the desired location for their tourism offering. To address this, we helped these operators develop partnerships with community members and organizations who were able to offer venue locations as part of the partnership. We also assisted in seeking and securing insurance coverage and zoning by-law compliance for various participants.
Experience Partners – Marketing Assets: https://youtu.be/xCyEGsru7MM