It all started with the dream of putting Georgian Bay on the same stage as other famous destinations around the world. The first task was to recruit 15 or so key tourism stakeholders to create a working group which would eventually become the Georgian Bay Destination Development Partnership (GBDDP). The second was to improve the visitor experience to a higher level.
Hired by the GBDDP, BC Hughes started work on the project by developing 11 themed driving routes around the Bay. To be the best that they could be, these routes were supported by operators who were assessed for their alignment with both the experience and the target market the route was set to attract. The development of qualifying operator assessments was at the time ground breaking, and was subsequently adapted by the province for use in their motorsports and RV route development tools.
Once the driving route was established, BC Hughes assisted the GBDDP with several other initiatives to support the tourism development, including:
- The development of a strategic plan to guide the group in future initiatives;
- The creation of route branding and the corresponding marketing plan to attract visitors to the region;
- The implementation of interpretive signage to engage and route signage to guide visitors along the route; and
- The development of a tourism website to assist visitors in planning their travels.
Working together allowed this region to put not only Georgian Bay on the map as a significant destination, but it also created an example of how several regions can work together to create a more robust tourism product.
As a result of this project, the GBDDP was named the 2010 winner of the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership – Best Tourism Partnership, and in 2009 Canadians selected Georgian Bay as Canada’s Best Hidden Travel Gem in a contest run by the Canadian Tourism Commission.