Taking a page
When it comes to rural Ontario communities promoting themselves as tourism destinations, few do it better than Prince Edward County.
Buzz surrounding the agricultural community that has rebranded itself as a wine and cheese mini-Mecca and weekend getaway spot for Ontarians is reaching a fever pitch. Accommodations in the county’s small communities can be difficult to come by spring through fall. That Toronto’s Drake Hotel has bought one of the inns in the county – which has a population of about 25,000 – seems proof the place many compare to Niagara-on-the-Lake “before it took off” is about to go up like a tinderbox.
There are some lessons Haliburton County can take away from Prince Edward County that may help in the continued forging of its own identity as a tourist destination.
First, though, it should be recognized that yes, Prince Edward County has certain advantages over Haliburton County, assets the latter simply cannot recreate.
An island of about 1,000-square-kilometres (that’s roughly a quarter the size of Haliburton County), Prince Edward County is located along Lake Ontario’s northeast shore. It is connected to the seaway and enjoys that history. Named for Prince Edward in 1792, the grand brick homes of those who profited from the area’s shipping and agricultural industries are prominent, historical features.
It’s difficult for some wooden cabins from 19th century pioneers to stack up to that, it’s true.
There’s also its soil composition, the soil composition that has germinated the dozens of vineyards and wineries that now dot Prince Edward County and are one of its greatest draws.
Difficult to do a whole lot about that, yes.
However, a focus on locally produced food and beverages is certainly something Haliburton County can do and has been doing. Not only is culinary tourism one of the three pillars of the county’s tourism strategy, there are a number of local success stories, including the proliferation of the Haliburton County Farmers’ Market, which now has three locations, and Carnarvon’s Boshkung Brewing, which recently announced an expansion in Minden and which will be available in the LCBO and Beer Store come fall.
Fewer dollar stores and more quaint cafes, shops and boutiques would do Haliburton County good, as would more cross-promotion of local businesses by local businesses.
This is a common occurrence in Prince Edward County, even if those businesses sell similar products.
Rather than a sense of competition, there seems to be a great, underlying understanding in the community that what is good for one is good for all, that cross-promotion of merchants by all merchants is ultimately mutually beneficial.
A community does not need to be connected to the sea or have the ability to grow grapes to do that.