In preparation for the 2016 Food Tourism Summit happening November 21st in Ottawa, we’re continuing to speak with and learn from some of the brightest and most innovative leaders in Ontario culinary tourism.
This year’s summit theme is ‘Cultivating a Taste of Place, Together
,’ — learn how our tastemakers do just that below!
Tourism Specialist at the County of Oxford
Meredith has been making waves at Oxford County Tourism
since starting her role as Oxford’s Tourism Specialist in the Fall of 2013 — highlighting some of the finest local cheeses with widely successful Oxford County Cheese Trail is no exception!
We sat down with Meredith to talk about Oxford County’s growth in the food tourism industry and the process of engaging with community members and stakeholders
What motivated Oxford County to invest in Food Tourism Development?
Oxford County has a wealth of agriculture and culinary assets in the region. We have a history of cheese, dairy and farming that means a lot of local businesses were already sourcing local food. Therefore we had to work with partners to assist them in telling their local food story and to encourage more partnerships between food producers, attractions and restaurants. With a wealth of culinary assets it was a natural fit to grow tourism in Oxford County.
In terms of the Oxford Cheese Trail and the process of enhancing it – what was it like working with the CTA and stakeholders?
It was an amazing opportunity. Working with CTA gave us insights on how to engage with the industry. It gave our stakeholders a better sense of working together and using food tourism as a way to grow their business and the community as a whole. It was great to have access to a wealth of information from the CTA who has the knowledge and shares experiences from other organizations both provincially, nationally and international. The really exciting part of this work was that the linkages between the partners grew – more people are working better together than ever before and there is more Oxford County cheese being promoted and sold than previously.
What, if any challenges did you have?
Taking the time to develop the relationships. We needed to understand everyone’s goals and what they are trying to achieve and how we could align our goals with theirs. It takes patience to properly develop the product – that challenge became our strength as in building relationships and criteria contributed to a strong product and ensured that we were market ready when we launched.
What was the value of developing criteria for the stakeholders to be on the trail?
That was a huge asset. We set the stage for what we were looking for to be on the trail and discussed the criteria to be on the trail with the stakeholders. Developing the criteria with them has ensured that the trail experience meets the expectations of the consumer. The criteria will continue to evolve. It is a great way to facilitate the discussion with businesses about tourist’s needs and working collaboratively. The criteria allowed for greater dialogue.
You are part of a panel at our 2016 Food Tourism Summit – what nuggets of wisdom do you intend to share with our audience?
Advice from the field. Sharing the product development, implementation and marketing cycle and what we are doing to grow the trail moving forward. We can’t sit still we have to continue to evolve the trail.