Windsor-Essex tourism group banks on staycations to boost local businesses
In pandemic pivot, TWEPI visitor guide promotes region to its residents
Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island has launched its annual visitor guide with a new brand amid the pandemic, calling it a "Staycation in Windsor-Essex Guide."
The guide is meant to encourage local residents to get out and explore their own city, culture and businesses in their neighbourhoods.
"We recognize that people that have been in their homes, cooped up, are looking to enjoy some of the tourism assets in their own backyard," said Gordon Orr, CEO of TWEPI.
Tom O'Brien, president of Cooper's Hawk Vineyard and Vines Restaurant, feels confident that a pitch to local residents is a good move from a business perspective.
"This is going to be a bang-up summer," said O'Brien.
According to Orr, the focus for this summer's campaign will be hyper-local and domestic.
New programs have been launched and enhanced from last year, with the intention of attracting local tourism to local regions.
Some programs include a cultural experience such as Nonna's Shopping List, an multi-business guide offering deals and experiences along Erie Street in Windsor. Orr said it is a program designed to celebrate Italian heritage, with 16 local businesses involved.
The W.E. Heart Local program has also been launched to showcase 70 local producers, road-side markets and farming in the region.
"A number of participants there to celebrate the bounty of Windsor Essex County," said Orr.
Wineries, breweries and distillers have also been included in this program.
'Huge pent up demand'
O'Brien thinks residents will participate in staycations this year but he admits that the business has been hurt by the lack of visitors from Detroit and other cities in Michigan.
"I think it's going to be amazing," said O'Brien. "We have been sensing from people that have been writing us and talking to us that there is a huge pent up demand to get out," he said.
Coopers Hawk Vineyard and the Vines Restaurant, located in Harrow, Ont., will be open for business on Friday as part of the province-wide reopening plan.
The patio will be open for guests and wine tastings by the glass will be available.
O'Brien said the restaurant is fully booked for reservations this upcoming Friday.
'Itching to go away'
Al Valente, owner of Valente Travel, said a large number of phone calls he receives are from people who want to travel this summer, particularly to the U.S. and Caribbean.
"Everybody's really itching to go away," said Valente.
Valente said he is receiving calls from Canadians who want to do local activities this summer, but most of the callers have made inquiries about current industry offerings, safety protocols, voucher refunds and wedding bookings.
The U.S. border closure will expire on June 21 if it's not extended. The federal government has also announced a tentative plan to ease some restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers next month.
According to Orr, TWEPI is planning to expand its focus and start promoting the region within Southwestern Ontario for the fall, and it will look into plans for the U.S. in 2022.
With files by Dale Molnar