MTA changes name, hints at new initiatives at AGM

The current board of directors for Destination Manitoulin Island includes, from left, Doug Wuksinic, Christina Edwards, Lorie Leeson, Derek Stephens, Stan Ferguson, Christianna Jones and Jocelyn Bebamikawe. Not present is Sam Nardi. photo by Warren Schlote

LITTLE CURRENT – The Manitoulin Tourism Association (MTA) held its annual general meeting last week and shared updates on its evolving Island-wide branding strategy, including a hint at some upcoming initiatives that it expects to roll out in the coming year.

To start, the MTA has unveiled a new branding and working name. It will be henceforth known as Destination Manitoulin Island (DMI), which reflects the new directions the organization is taking as well as its status as the official destination marketing organization for Manitoulin Island. However, its registered name remains Manitoulin Tourism Association Incorporated.

“Our goal is to market the Island as a whole product. With that in mind, developing the ‘Destination Manitoulin Island’ was one way to do that. It ties well with Destination Northern Ontario,” said DMI’s Stan Ferguson following the AGM.

The organization has a new logo that Islanders may recognize as the former logo of the Manitoulin Chamber of Commerce, which disbanded in 2016. At that time, all of its assets were transferred to the MTA, including the old logo.

The logo repurposing was a case of “if it’s not broken, why fix it?” according to DMI director of tourism Shelba Millette. The logo’s structure also speaks to a geographic branding initiative within DMI.

Another former chamber of commerce asset that has been revitalized is the ‘Made on Manitoulin’ official brand strategy. Christina Edwards of Green Bay Lodge has taken the lead on this project and described it as an exciting tool to revitalize.

“It was just such a great idea. A lot of work went into the original concept and it shouldn’t be languishing. We felt it was important to bring back,” said Ms. Edwards.

DMI will be pushing this tool to all its members in the hopes of driving as much participation as possible. This is aimed to help create a unified, Island-wide branding for Manitoulin.

“It’s going to legitimize what we do. Our experience at the Royal Winter Fair showed us that there’s interest there (in Manitoulin products),” said Ms. Edwards.

The current concept for the Made On Manitoulin brand is to have the background colour of the seal reflect which part of the Island the product is from, based on the ‘Three Lands’ division of the Island that DMI has designed to subdivide Manitoulin into three day-trip-length regions.

Details about the program, just as the other 2020 proposed initiatives through DMI, have yet to be finalized. Ms. Edwards said the hope was that the Made On Manitoulin branding would be live by the coming summer.

The above-mentioned Royal Winter Fair experience was a first for DMI, at which several Manitoulin businesses joined the Northern Ontario Agri-Food Pavilion. There was a substantial amount of foot traffic that was interested in Manitoulin products during the 10-day event. At the DMI AGM, Jocelyn Bebamikawe presented photos and a recap of the Royal, as well as key takeaways.

Results from the fair were that Manitoulin Island has a positive brand identity, patrons were surprised at the variety of businesses and products available from Manitoulin, many expressed interest in where to stay and where to purchase goods, including via online, and there was considerable support for hands-on producers who create products from start-to-finish. Sampling of Manitoulin products massively increased sales.

Ms. Millette then discussed the taglines that will support DMI as it continues to pursue a new direction. These include ‘Heart and spirit of the Canadian Great Lakes,’ ‘Embrace, explore, enjoy,’ and ‘fresh air + fresh water + fresh food.’ The latter tagline is sponsored by Manitoulin Transport; all posters and visual materials that make use of ‘fresh air + fresh water + fresh food’ will feature the Manitoulin Transport logo at the bottom.

Above all, said several DMI members at the meeting, the organization is designed to bring together all businesses and producers on Manitoulin under one umbrella.

“Nobody does that, and I believe that’s the secret to success, tying everybody together. (DMI) includes everybody,” said Mr. Ferguson.

“We will promote and market Manitoulin Island in a manner that will accurately reflect our highly unique Canadian cross-cultural destination. We will help protect, secure, develop and promote Island tourism, natural assets, events and businesses in a sustainable manner. This will preserve our Island ways and quality of life,” read the DMI promise statement provided to The Expositor by Ms. Millette.

As part of DMI’s goal to become a leader in sustainable tourism by creating unique, year-round cross-cultural experiences built upon socially and environmentally conscious partnerships, read the statement, it will also be branching out with further projects to come in the future.

DMI leaders are working on a youth and young adult social entrepreneurship incubator program for the coming year. They also have plans to create a culinary tourism experience that highlights Indigenous cuisine on Manitoulin Island. DMI declined to release details on these projects, which are expected to be announced more fully in the spring. 

DMI also has a new website in the works that will showcase Island communities divided by the Three Lands structure, with sub-sections of where to eat, stay and play and other services provided in each community.