Lanark County sets sights on robust tourism marketing strategy for 2024

The Purdon Conservation Area in Lanark Highlands is one of the 7 Wonders of Lanark County. The showy lady slippers are in bloom in July and is a popular destination for visitors. Lanark County tourism was on the docket at the Jan. 24 meeting of county council. – Laurie Weir photo

New tourism products, day trips, cycling, fun family events and more are on the slate this year across Lanark County.

Vanessa Dow, the county’s tourism and corporate relations coordinator, shared marketing and promotional plans for 2024 during the regular meeting of Lanark County council on Jan. 24.

“Our goal is to develop and promote visitation in Lanark County to create increased economic prosperity and enhanced community experience,” Dow noted in her report to council.

Highlights from last year included the publishing and distributing of trail maps, new swag, itineraries for road trips, a new website, a successful Harvest Festival, social media campaigns for summer and fall travel, and a summer photography campaign in Perth. The county also initiated trails and developed product partnerships with Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization, Renfrew and Frontenac.

Areas of focus include developing and growing partnerships for collaboration. This will help broaden their reach, use resources effectively and enhance the overall tourism experience across the county, Dow noted.

They will market the county as a destination of choice, create a robust marketing strategy to raise awareness, attract visitors and showcase Lanark County as a desirable destination. They will also develop tourism products and experiences to encourage longer and repeat visits.

“We’re looking to increase our communication and collaboration with municipal partners and business organizations,” Dow said, as they support tourism operators and leverage partner organizations to amplify their reach.

As far as marketing goes, Dow said they want to solidify brand identity, have strategic investments to reach target markets and offer a year-round content calendar to extend the tourism season.

Plans this year include refreshing existing tourism products and looking for opportunities to improve the length of stay and year-round visits. Dow said they will also pursue opportunities for partnership with Valley Heartland in tourism-specific business attractions.

“We will look to continue to identify and develop themes including trails, maple, culinary tourism and cycling,” she said.

Coun. Toby Randell (Carleton Place Mayor) suggested they add music to the list, as the county has some robust events.

Tourism initiatives that people can look forward to this year include:

Culinary tourism marketing campaign in partnership with Culinary Tourism Ontario and OHTO.
The completion and initial implementation of new Lanark County branding.
New billboards on Highway 7 and throughout the county.
Participation in Ottawa Travel and Vacation show (April 6-7 at the Ottawa Convention Centre) with Lanark County Tourism Association and municipalities.
New visitor information maps.
A trail loop partnership; and,
Ad campaigns with Edible Touring Guide and Eastern Ontario Vacation Guide.

Coun. Judy Brown (Perth Mayor) asked if visitors would be confused between Lanark County and Smiths Falls, as they are two separate areas.

“Having two different entities in the same area, in some ways, does it get in the way?”

Dow said she doesn’t think it confuses visitors.

“I do think when Smiths Falls and Lanark County work together to promote tourism it is more effective and more beneficial for everyone if we can coordinate our efforts … The visitors just want to know what’s fun to do,” Dow said.

Coun. Christa Lowry (Mississippi Mills Mayor) asked for more details about how the plan will work for 2024, and who has been involved in the discussions so far.

“I’d like to know a little bit more about what this would look like and who’s been involved already,” Lowry said, noting there has been a lot of change and she’d like to know how this is different from past practices.

“There is nothing wrong with what’s presented here at all,” she noted. “Don’t take this as a criticism at all … I’m just not sure I’m seeing as many details as I’d like to see in something that is a year plan.”

Coun. Richard Kidd, who chaired the meeting, asked Dow if she could bring back more details to the next meeting.

Dow said the county’s destination development plan is in effect from 2020-2025, “so this is just a working plan under that destination development plan that I’m going to be using to guide my work over the next year, but I can come back with more detail on that.”

This motion was referred back to staff for more information. It will come back to council on Feb. 28 for further discussion.

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