Frequently asked questions

Regional Tourism Organizations

What is a Regional Tourism Organization — and what is its role?

Regional Tourism Organizations are independent, industry-led, not-for-profit organizations. They play an important role in supporting competitive and sustainable tourism regions. Each organization provides regional leadership and coordination and works with industry partners to grow tourism through activities like strategic planning, research, product development, training, investment attraction and marketing.

How many Regional Tourism Organizations are there in Ontario?

There are 13 Regional Tourism Organizations in the province – one for each tourism region. Find your tourism region.

Why are Regional Tourism Organizations needed? How do they benefit the tourism industry?

In 2009, the Ontario government completed the Tourism Competitiveness Study. In its review of Ontario's tourism industry, the study found that:

    • Many different organizations are involved in marketing at the regional level, reducing the efficiency of marketing resources and effectiveness of any single Destination Marketing Organization
    • Most Ontario Destination Marketing Organizations focus on marketing, not on management/development of regions as tourism destinations
    • Organizations involved in destination marketing and management need to come together as an industry to have better success
    • The size and diversity of the province dictate the need for a regional approach to tourism marketing (within an overall provincial strategy).

As a result, the study recommended the creation of tourism regions led by one regional organization in each, to make Ontario’s tourism industry stronger and more competitive.

Regional Tourism Organizations provide regional leadership and support a more coordinated and collaborative approach that maximizes resources, encourages strategic planning and investment, and results in stronger marketing with better reach.

How were the boundaries of the 13 tourism regions and three northern sub-regions determined?

Regional boundaries were developed after extensive consultation and submissions from industry partners. More than 500 tourism partners from across the province helped inform the development of the regional boundaries through 13 public consultations, 17 planning sessions, and almost 200 written and online submissions.

The industry indicated that the regions need to be sustainable, capture unique product clusters and integrate existing brands and partnerships.

The ministry listened and also took into consideration other important factors, such as the tourist's perspective, travel patterns, common markets, natural landforms and existing infrastructure.

What is the role of existing Destination Marketing Organizations and sectoral organizations versus Regional Tourism Organizations? How do they work together?

Destination marketing organizations focus on developing tourism at a sub-regional level, particularly through marketing. Regional tourism organizations are responsible for tourism marketing, development and management at a regional level. Sectoral organizations are provincial or national in scope and focus on opportunities to improve specific sectors of the tourism industry.

The ministry expects that Regional Tourism Organizations will work with all industry partners in their region to grow tourism. Regional Tourism Organizations may also work collaboratively across regions and with sector-based organizations on areas of mutual interest. Regions may vary, however, in how their Regional Tourism Organizations and existing Destination Marketing Organizations decide to work together. Destination Marketing Organizations and Regional Tourism Organizations may be able to develop long-term partnership opportunities.

Who determines the Regional Tourism Organization’s board structure and membership?

It is up to each Regional Tourism Organization to determine its own board structure and membership.

Are Regional Tourism Organizations membership-based and do they have membership fees?

It is up to each Regional Tourism Organization to determine if they are membership-based and if membership fees will be implemented. Regional Tourism Organizations are responsible for supporting tourism across the entire region.

How do I ensure that the interests of tourism businesses in my area are represented by the Regional Tourism Organization?

Find your tourism region and contact your Regional Tourism Organization to get involved.

What role do Regional Tourism Organizations and the ministry have in terms of research?

Regional Tourism Organizations may pursue regional research for planning, coordination and performance measurement.

The ministry will complement this work with province-wide data broken down by region. The ministry is already supporting the Regional Tourism Organizations with data and statistics on visits to tourism regions including:

    • Regional visits, length of stay and spending
    • Purpose of visits and activities
    • Visits by origin (Ontario, Canada, U.S.A., overseas)
    • Accommodation statistics.

The Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation has also offered partnership opportunities to the Regional Tourism Organizations to conduct social media research, brand perception and awareness research and partnership satisfaction surveys to gain consumer insight.

How are Regional Tourism Organizations held accountable for the use of provincial funding?

All Regional Tourism Organizations have signed transfer payment agreements that hold them accountable to the Province for how funding is used and for growing tourism in the region. These agreements include the requirement to report to the Ministry regularly. The Ministry has the ability to take any steps it deems appropriate if a Regional Tourism Organization is unable fulfill its responsibilities. Regional Tourism Organizations are also responsible to their members for results.

Do Regional Tourism Organizations have to comply with Ontario's French Language Services Act requirements?

The French Language Services Act guarantees an individual's right to receive services in French from Government of Ontario ministries and agencies in 25 designated areas. This legislation does not directly govern the work of independent organizations.

Francophone visitors are an important market for Ontario. That is why the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and Direction Ontario — Ontario's provincial Francophone tourism organization — are working with Regional Tourism Organizations to build their capacity to attract and serve Francophone visitors.

Many tourism partners are already putting an emphasis on serving Francophone visitors. The ministry encourages this work to continue.

Funding

How much funding is the province providing to the tourism regions?

The Ontario government is supporting the tourism regions with $40 million in annual funding. The Province is also providing $18.75 million in destination marketing fee transition funding from April to December 2012.

How will the funding for each region be used?

Tourism partners will use this funding to enhance destination marketing and management. This will help tourism in each region continue to grow and support local jobs and businesses.

Who decides how these funds are used?

The Regional Tourism Organization's board determines how to use the region's funding. These plans are guided through the terms of a transfer payment agreement with the ministry.

What happens in 2013-2014? How much funding will each region get then?

In 2013-2014, Ontario will continue support for the tourism regions with $40 million in annual funding.

The ministry continues to work with stakeholders on approaches for sustainable long-term funding.

How does the regional tourism approach affect municipal support for tourism?

The ministry encourages municipalities to continue supporting tourism as part of their communities' economic growth strategies.

It is important for municipalities to work with their Regional Tourism Organization to further local tourism growth and economic success.