Project Name: Heritage Destination Development – Elora and Fergus

Elora & Fergus (as one destination) represents a prominent, emerging opportunity unequalled in Ontario.

Elora is a place carved by nature, with a unique gorge setting on the precipice of a 24-metre limestone cliff cut by the roaring Grand River. A walk around the village’s charming 19th century buildings constructed with limestone from the local quarry confirms its inexorable connection to the unique geology. The boldly reimagined Elora Mill stands as a symbol of a place moving into the future rooted firmly in the history of the river. Six kilometres from Elora upstream on the Grand River, Fergus shares much of the same charm. Together, Elora & Fergus as one destination offer a rich selection of nature activities, arts and culture that represent a prominently emerging opportunity in Ontario.

After four years of engaged partnerships with the Township of Centre Wellington and its tourism stakeholders, 2018 saw the much-anticipated official relaunch of this destination. Elora is one of Ontario’s last remaining, truly original and authentic heritage towns, now opening its arms with better facilities and activities than ever. A brand awareness campaign in partnership with Destination Ontario re-established high provincial recognition that both created excitement and drove intent to travel.

The year 2019 will be bigger and better than ever with a focus on keeping Elora & Fergus front and centre in the minds of consumers as a key destination to visit. The transition of Elora & Fergus Tourism from a DMO to a Destination Marketing and Management Organization (DMMO) will continue, as will efforts to elevate the destination’s digital sophistication.

Background

In 2015, RTO4 selected InterVISTAS through an RFP process to lead the destination development process based on the model of fostering community collaboration and stakeholder engagement.

Six strategic themes along with issues, opportunities and strategic initiatives were identified and agreed upon as the focus for Elora & Fergus:

  • Illuminate our natural assets
  • Strengthen our product offering
  • Increase market readiness of festivals and events
  • Enhance accommodation quality and capacity
  • Increase community support
  • Improve on hygiene factors

Phase II of the Elora & Fergus destination development project in 2016/17 focused on moving from strategy development to implementation and actioning of strategic themes. The destination network has grown and gained strength over the year with the establishment of subcommittees on five of the six identified themes.

These five subcommittees were established with members from the local community. They were tasked with brainstorming issues and working on local projects to provide solutions to issues, challenges and opportunities identified in order to enhance the visitor experience.

The year 2017/18 saw the implementation of a number of successful projects by the various committees to improve tourism in Elora & Fergus. These include The Destination Animation Strategic Co-investment Opportunity, The Google 360 Project, Festival and Event workshops and an Accommodation tour.

Fiscal year 2018/2019 saw the continuation of committee meetings and implementation of projects by the committees. One of the larger ones included a collaboration among Destination Ontario, the Township of Centre Wellington, Pearle Hospitality and RTO4 on a provincial Elora & Fergus campaign to celebrate the revitalization of Elora with the opening of the Elora Mill Hotel & Spa.

Fiscal 2019/2020 will see the Township of Centre Wellington assume a larger role in strategy creation and tourism program implementation. This will help achieve the vision with input from subcommittee members during the transition into a DMMO. It will also allow the continuation of campaigns to keep Elora & Fergus in the spotlight and increase digital sophistication programming in the region.

2019/2020 Objectives

OBJECTIVE #1 – Increase the capacity of Centre Wellington to maximize the return on investment in its provincially significant tourism asset. 

OBJECTIVE #2– Bolster the digital capacity of the destination to chart and manage its own digital presence.

OBJECTIVE #3 –Work with the Township of Centre Wellington to set up a Digital Excellence Centre to provide one-on-one mentorship to the destination network that will increase the digital capacity and skill set of local tourism operators.

OBJECTIVE #4 – Work with tourism partners to create highly shareable and shared experiences through the Elora & Fergus 2019 Destination Animation Strategic Co-investment Opportunity.

Key Activities

  • Increase Township of Centre Wellington’s knowledge of tourism programs and initiatives and enable it to
    take a larger role in implementation.
  • Transition website and social media channels to Township of Centre Wellington.
  • Work with industry partners to implement the Digital Excellence Program in 2019/2020.
  • Implement Year 3 of the Elora & Fergus Destination Animation Strategic Co-investment Opportunity and Google 360.
  • Execute two marketing campaigns.

For more details on this project, please visit the 2019/2020 RTO4 Business Plan, pages 24-29.