One of the culinary tourism offerings in the county in recent years is the Food and Beverage Showcase held each year in June at Wintergreen in Gelert. /File photo

Growing culinary tourism in Haliburton County

By Chad Ingram

Published Oct. 23 2018

The following are brief reports of items discussed during an Oct. 10 meeting of the Haliburton County tourism advisory committee.

Committee members heard a presentation from Rebecca Mackenzie president of the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance about the continued and growing importance of food-based tourism in the province.

“It isn’t just a dining experience” Mackenzie said adding food-based tourism can include experiences such as visiting microbreweries wineries or orchards.

Mackenzie was promoting the CTA’s Feast On certification which recognizes establishments for using Ontario-grown and processed ingredients.

“This is good for the economy good for our farming industry and the food processing industry” she said.

To qualify businesses must go through an audit process demonstrating they meet the threshold for Ontario-based ingredients.

Currently in Haliburton County Carnarvon’s Rhubarb restaurant is the sole Feast On-certified dining establishment.

“I’m happy to hear the standards are high; it means that it’s meaningful” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin. “If it was easy to get in everybody would be on the train.”

The county is hiring a food tourism co-ordinator on a contract to create a couple of major food-based programs. The county obtained provincial funding for the creation of the contract position.

Tourism director Amanda Virtanen presented committee members with a draft marketing plan for 2019 incorporating feedback from stakeholders and a survey issued by the tourism department. Virtanen will be seeking more input from stakeholders on the draft before bringing it back to the committee once again.

“We’re going to focus in 2019 on enhancing our Google presence” Virtanen said adding that while the Haliburton Highlands Twitter and Facebook accounts have significant followings she also plans to focus on boosting its numbers on social media photo-sharing app Instagram in the upcoming year.

“I’d like to increase that 20-fold” she said.

The Haliburton Highlands Facebook page has more than 21000 likes and its Twitter account nearly 5000 followers. Its Instagram audience is currently fewer than 1000.

Virtanen said she would also like to increase the number of videos on the Haliburton Highlands YouTube channel.

“I’d love to see more videos on there from across the county”  she said. Positive Media is currently creating an “Ask a Local” video series for the county.

The county will continue to populate its new tourism website with user-generated imagery and continue to tailor activities towards the “travelling consumer” that being someone who travels 40 kilometres or more to a destination perhaps just for a day trip. Given the county’s size residents themselves can be travelling consumers within their own community.

The tourism department’s target audience is represented by a hypothetical couple named Karen and Jake a youngish couple with disposable income seeking an authentic experience and who like to share their adventures via social media.

“We’re not just focused on Karen and Jake” Virtanen said. “We’re able to use Karen and Jake as conduits to other secondary markets.”

There are also plans to enhance the Hike Haliburton festival with a snowshoeing event that would take place in 2020.

Committee members were to receive samples of limited edition clothing produced by CoHo Apparel. The county and the company have been in conversation for a number of months and while the committee has seen images of the proposed merchandise members said they were disappointed that physical samples of the clothing had not come to fruition.

Councillors on the committee agreed that the issue of a new limited edition clothing line would be left to the new county council.