Last week, I had the privilege to attend NOTO's 83rd annual conference in Dryden. for those who don't know, NOTO is "Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario" (formerly Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters.)
I was there to make a presentation on the RTO process currently being developed in Ontario and in particular, the status of the work being done in Northern Ontario or Region 13. It was a chance to present, hear comments, ideas and concerns from the resource based operators that dominate the industry in the northwest. It was also a great chance to see Dryden's relatively new and spectacular Training and Cultural Centre, giving me a sense of the region's meeting and convention product outside of Thunder Bay.
NOTO does a lot of great advocacy work on behalf of that segment of the industry and is not just focused on marketing but rather on capacity building and policy advocacy with the multitude of government agencies whose policies positively - and negatively - impact our tourism industry.
This year, I was able to make time and stay for the entire 2 day conference, giving me a much better appreciation as an urban tourism guy, about the issues, challenges and opportunities facing the outfitters in our region. In addition to the updates on the RTO, presentations on forest fire prevention and combat strategies, bed allocation on remote lakes, land tenure, trending, border issues, recreational off road vehicle licencing, marketing and digital media provided a valuable forum to network and understand the bigger picture. This is certainly a forum and organization more operators in the industry need to know about and get involved with. I've known the organization's Executive Director, Doug Rynolds, for the past nine years and I can say that he works tirelessly on behalf of the industry's interests...and its an industry with a lot of demands. He's also been one of Thunder Bay's biggest supporters from the resource based sector, helping us create those urban/wilderness linkages and mutual respect essential to moving forward as a region.
As an aside, one of my co executive colleagues and friend, Dave McLaughlan of North to Adventure, was awarded the Bob Giles Award for his tireless efforts to grow and promote the north through his work with the RTO, OTMPC's Northern Committee and the Algoma Kinnewabi Travel Association. Congrats Dave.
As many know, Thunder Bay is working hard in its tourism strategy to position itself as a gateway city to some of the best outdoor adventures on the planet so its imperative we understand the experiences and markets beyond out city lights and build new potential partnerships.
If you want to learn more about NOTO, visit them @ www.noto.net