County tourism efforts appear to be paying off

By Chad Ingram

Published June 20 2017

The Haliburton Highlands has long been a cottage and tourism destination but lately it seems like the world is taking note.

The Highlands was recently part of USA Today reader’s choice contest for best cottage region in Canada alongside other cottaging destinations such as the Bruce Peninsula British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

Online voting in the contest closed earlier this week.

The Haliburton Highlands has been appearing more and more in major publications often painted as an affordable alternative to Muskoka.

“The momentum we’ve been trying to build for years is starting to happen” said Algonquin Highlands Reeve and chairwoman of the county’s tourism committee Carol Moffatt during a June 14 committee meeting. “I think the world is really seriously starting to find the Haliburton Highlands.”

During the past four years the county has undertaken a marketing plan that has focused on the pillars of outdoor adventure arts culture and heritage and culinary arts and food destinations. The campaign has encouraged residents to share stories and images of the area on social media platforms using the hashtag #MyHaliburtonHighlands.

The Haliburton Highlands is featured in its own section on the new website from the Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization which launched June 2. Haliburton is part of the provincially created regional tourism organization along with Hastings County Lanark County Land O’ Lakes and the Ottawa Valley.

County tourism director Amanda Virtanen said during the meeting that local residents have been avid supporters of the tourism organization.

“I think they’re the most engaged with giving content and working with OHTO” Virtanen said.

Sunny Rock B&B owner and committee member Sally Moore who’s also part of a local tourism stakeholders’ group said this summer is shaping up to be a busy one in the Highlands with many accommodators and restaurants already booking up.

“Are we ready?’ Moore asked referring to what appears to be the growing popularity of the area.
“How does an entire community be ready for a potentially explosive future?” said Moffatt.