Resorts of Ontario Conference Looks Forward

Outgoing president Mark Downing passes the gavel to president-elect Dianne Hounsome.

Outgoing president Mark Downing passes the gavel to president-elect Dianne Hounsome.

By Don Douloff, Assistant Editor

ORILLIA, Ont. — Resorts of Ontario celebrated its 75th anniversary at its annual spring conference by looking to the future with the theme, Reimagine, Reinvent, Reinvest, LET’S TALK.

Held April 3-4 at Deerhurst Resort, in Huntsville, Ont., the conference started with a bang on April 3. That came courtesy of keynote speaker Roger Brooks, branding, marketing and product development expert, who provided a number of practical tips on how resorts can market themselves effectively (a couple of examples: invest in product first, then tip the scales to marketing; properties must find and define their niche by promoting the unique experiences they offer, in order to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace). Brooks also outlined the travel preferences of Millennials, Baby Boomers and Gen X and how resorts can cater to each segment.

Boomers, for example, control the lion’s share of travel spending and seek something unique and local when travelling. Furthermore, they will pay for quality. Gen X prefers active recreation (sports, spas, etc). In contrast, Millennials want immersive activities such as biking.

Key to today’s traveller is providing Internet that is not just free, but fast, said Brooks. He also outlined ways properties can motivate guests to book directly with them rather than third-party sites: offer to customize guests’ experiences (by catering to their preferences in pillows, food, bathroom amenities, etc.) while also providing a low-price guarantee. He advised properties to commit almost half (45 per cent) of their annual marketing budgets to the digital space.

In another engaging session, John Ball, of Snow Valley Resort, extolled the virtues of dynamic room pricing as a way to manage and optimize revenues effectively. Capping off the day was the annual trade show and supplier-led roundtables. 

Highlighting the President’s Dinner, hosted by Kevin Forget, travel promotion officer at OTMPC, was the announcement of Dianne Hounsome as president-elect, succeeding Mark Downing, of Fern Resort, who has completed his two-year term. As is customary at the dinner, the outgoing president, with all due ceremony, passed the gavel to the president-elect.

Day Two saw an informative session, led by Peter Coish, of Kuration, and Kate Monk, of Explorers’ Edge, on the necessity of marketing on Facebook. Coish stressed the need to post, on a regular basis, engaging content, which will strengthen the site’s all-important search engine optimization and, consequently, place the site higher on Google search pages. For her part, Monk stressed that Facebook offers an opportunity to engage with customers, and said the platform allows resort operators to market themselves directly to consumers.

Brenda Wood, executive director, Kawarthas Northumberland, outlined how the tourism zone made the shift to visitor experiences, introducing 22 new experiences in the past two years. Next step, she said, is to market those experiences globally through Ontario Tourism.

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