IGNITING Experiential Tourism for Communities

I was very pleased to welcome 19 excited tourism peeps to Ignite Haliburton hosted at our Algonquin Park home, Northern Edge Algonquin in the ‘Explorer’s Edge’ region of Ontario April 13-19, 2015.

Ignite Haliburton is a new type of project to address current needs to innovate and establish new tourism experiences from the grass roots for a community ofattendees through a process of Discovering, Dreaming, Designing, and Delivering new tourism experiences.  You _may be familiar with these terms from a process called Appreciative Inquiry which grounded this program.

Over the past decade I have been privileged to work with tourism industry professionals throughout Canada, in particular as a course designer and facilitator for the Edge of the Wedge Program at Gros Morne Institute for Sustainable Tourism where I have shared many stories of innovation and transformation from this community over the last decade.

Stories are a great way to learn, but on Ignite Haliburton we spent three full days with my team, partners and tourism allies from the surrounding community to learn how our remote, rural community crafts world class experiential tourism offerings. Centred at our Northern Edge Algonquin Retreat on the Edge of Algonquin Park, participants experienced first hand how the off-the-grid eco-lodge is crafting unique and targeted visitor experiences recognized as Canadian and Ontario Signature Experiences.  In all, this program engaged over a dozen community partners!

In addition to learning from some terrific people, we explored a variety of built and natural community stages for tourism experiences.

The climax of the experience was when attendees used a new program development planning template, prepared just for Ignite Haliburton, to design new compelling tourism programs they hope to bring to life in their region of Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization.  I am grateful for a terrific partnership with OHTO and in particular the care provided by Stephanie Hessel, Tourism Development & Industry Relations Coordinator who inspired participants to attend and gave me the creative freedom to do what we do best and put our partners on unique stages to help participants infuse new experiences will local flavours at mealtime and beyond.  Our hope is Ignite provides the inspiration to leverage Haliburton, Ontario region resources to build new and exciting visitor experiences with an appreciation for the importance of community collaboration.