Great destinations and attractions don’t just happen. They require strategic decision-making and detailed planning to ensure the tourism experiences offered are best in class. Product development can sometimes get forgotten in the world of marketing, as it unapologetically has the reputation of being unglamorous, tiresome and complicated due to the need to involve many stakeholders and the amount of time it takes. However, product development is the most important step a region can take; it is the key to unlocking a destination’s ability, which ultimately leads to creating the most effective experiences and matching them with the best market.
Northern Ontario recognized the importance of the product development process and undertook the Northern Ontario Product Development Strategy as a large-scale research and analysis-driven initiative to determine the best bet investments they could make in tourism in the region.
The Northern Ontario Product Development Strategy, a joint project of BC Hughes and the Tourism Company, utilized a three phase process to create an overarching and encompassing strategy. This first phase of the project formed the foundation of discussions at the project steering committee workshop. It explored current industry, market and product research, product offerings, emerging ideas and the criteria for prioritizing initiatives. The Research Summary was undertaken during the second phase of the project. This summary took a closer look at the tourism product opportunities in the region and what was taking place on a global scale. Assessments of current best bet product areas were undertaken to determine the market, opportunities and challenges surrounding them and to start to formulate opinions about the importance of each product area to the future of tourism in Northern Ontario. A market assessment was also undertaken to determine the potential markets for Northern Ontario Products.
The final report, phase 3 of the project, resulted in the Northern Ontario Product Development Strategy. The report, which was presented to the Tourism Northern Ontario Board, included recommendations on how the organization should proceed with product development, best bet priorities for the next three to five years, as well as who should do what in the process.