The "Spark" Program match selected candidates with a tourism mentor and provide a source of financial support to help take great new tourism ideas to the next level of development or implementation. The goal is to find, foster and support new tourism ideas, experiences and partnerships that will enhance current offerings, address gaps or challenges, motivate travel and longer stays, and increase year-round visits in the region. Three winners from Chatham-Kent have been selected following a judging panel process and will receive the following:
- 3-month mentorship with a tourism innovator, experienced operator, industry leader and/or sector expert.
- $3,000 "Spark" grant to support tourism idea development activities.
- Access to a support network of tourism innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders.
- Ongoing guidance on other resources, and additional funding and in-kind support
- All Chatham-Kent Round 2 Finalists will receive in-kind vouchers from SOAR Innovation for complimentary rentals of hot desks at their Chatham campus.
The 2021 Chatham-Kent "Spark" Program winners are:
- Bria Atkins, The Crappie Store (Riverside Cabins on the Sydenham)
- Kelsey Nydam, Downtown Wallaceburg BIA (Wallaceburg Kayak Experience)
- Paul Spence (The Culinary Farm - On Farm Wood Fired Kitchen and Experiences)
The "Spark" Mentorships & Grants Program is a partnership between the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab, Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation, the Municipality's Community Attraction & Promotion and Economic Development divisions, Community Futures Chatham Kent, SOAR Innovation and WEtech Alliance. Funding support was also provided by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario.
Additionally, two of the "Spark" winners will each receive a digital services package valued at up to $10,000 to support technology development and adoption of their project made possible by the Digital Main Street – Future Proof, Community Collaboration Program. These are:
The Downtown Kayaking Experience
The project will include developing QR Codes that will hold digital information about the historic/local stories associated with our buildings and parks in Downtown Wallaceburg. This will serve as a natural addition to the historic kayaking package tours we are developing with the Wallaceburg and District Museum, Wallaceburg Trails Committee, and the Wallaceburg Canoe and Kayak Club. It will also give us the ability to extend our tourism offerings to those who prefer on-land activities or are looking for something to do in the off-season. As a non-profit, our goal with this project is to bring people Downtown in a fun, engaging way that will highlight what Downtown Wallaceburg has to offer in terms of nature, history, and local businesses.
The Culinary Farm
The project will help develop an innovative online learning space through our website so we can create and build virtual experiences to attract tourists from around the globe, while also working with the current restrictions in place because of COVID for the foreseeable future. Additionally, the project will construct a wood fired kitchen on our farm to be able to tie all the unique food production on our farm together and for consumers. We are also excited because this allows us to collaborate with other farms and chefs from the region to bring food experiences right onto the farm so people can connect with their food and understand all that goes into producing it.