As COVID-19 restrictions and subsidies lessen, businesses across Ontario are trying to bring back the visitors they once had. The agritourism sector took a hard hit, but the Culinary Tourism Alliance’s COVID-19 recovery program called The Great Taste of Ontario may be its saving grace.
The Great Taste of Ontario program provides a wide variety of itineraries for exploring different parts of the province, with a focus on local food and drink. Some featured businesses include bakeries, distilleries, farms, wineries, artisans, cideries, farm markets, breweries, and more. The website provides over 80 regional destination passports that can be downloaded for free.
Participants can travel by car, bike, or foot and check-in when visiting participating businesses listed in their passport to earn points. The points are redeemable for made-in-Ontario prizes, or can be donated to one of two charities: Second Harvest or Foodshare.
The program originally started in October of 2020 but was quashed by a lockdown and officially launched late last month. As restrictions lifted, people were finally able to start their roadtripping. The website has had over 2,000 downloads so far.
The program’s creation is a partnership between almost 90 organizations, including the federal and provincial governments, and the Ministry of Agriculture, which has helped partly fund the program alongside the Travel Industry Association of Ontario.
Of the 1,352 small businesses featured in the program, 363 are farms.
“This program helps inspire Ontarians with their travel plans while reinforcing the importance of supporting our farmers, food and beverage producers and the thousands of businesses that showcase their tastes,” said Rebecca Mackenzie, President and CEO of the Culinary Tourism Alliance.
“We’re hoping that we inspire Ontarians to explore their own backyard. I think agritourism is on the rise and getting people to your business and exploring rural Ontario has benefits for everyone,” said Agatha Podgorski, Director of Communications at the Culinary Food Alliance. “Our goal is to keep people moving around the province and building up the economy. Farms are such an important piece of the food tourism story.”