October 21, 2002

In response to one of the priorities identified in the 1999 South Bruce Economic Diversification Strategy, undertaken by Bruce CFDC, a financial and human resource investment was made to identify new or expanded tourism product development opportunities.  Bruce CFDC began a process of exploring possible ideas to generate increased tourism activity.  As a key component of this strategy, it was determined that the marine heritage of the area offered both product and market positioning opportunity.  A working group was established to build upon the inherent regional resource available through eleven (11) lighthouses dotting the Lake Huron and Georgian Bay coastlines of Bruce County, being approximately 200 km.

Based on group consultation among ten (10) partner groups including non-profit organizations, county, tourism and economic development interests, the theme of developing Bruce County as the “Lighthouse Destination in Great Lakes Canada” was confirmed in October 2000.  In recognition of the development time and resources toward this goal, the working group set both short term and long term objectives and plans.

Recognizing that Bruce County (and area) has a very large VFR (Visiting Friends & Relatives) market, the committee reasoned that the most obvious first step was to access this immediate market by developing and promoting a “lighthouse tour” to residents and in-market tourists.  Two objectives were set for 2001:
1.)  To create a quality “Placemap” representation of the lighthouse tour and then ensure its broad distribution throughout Bruce County
2.)  To build a website representing the historical and heritage features of the lighthouse tour

With the active participation of area lighthouse groups, a tour format was created.  This was done in the spring of 2001 in efforts to influence lighthouse visitations during the summer of 2001.  The initial marketing campaign included:
- Distribution of over 400,000 placemats to over 85 restaurants throughout Bruce County
- Point of Purchase displays featuring the folded placemat and lighthouse buttons
- A website – designed by Bruce County Tourism and located on their website:

- Media editorial – provided to regional magazines and through SOTO

The inaugural marketing program budget was assisted with a significant contribution from our largest employer, combined with Bruce CFDC CED project funding and allocation of some funds from two area tourism associations.

The campaign’s success was clearly demonstrated as all lighthouses experienced an average 27% increase in visitation during the 2001 summer, accredited to the visibility and interest generated via the placemat program.  The restaurants and business community were highly receptive to use of the placemats, appreciating the role that lighthouses, like other attractions, can have in extending visitor stays and thereby contribute to building area tourism as an economic generator.  Many inquiries were generated on Bruce County Tourism’s website as potential visitors took the “virtual lighthouse tour” online and requested additional information.

Lighthouse product and program development continues.  Bruce CFDC has continued to play a catalytic role in advancing this new product to market.  Bruce County is contributing technical expertise in further development of the website, profiling and promoting Bruce County as the “lighthouse destination in Great Lakes Canada”.  The lighthouse tour campaign of 2002 will also include brochures, FAM Tours, inclusion in key tourism marketing campaigns as well as being integrated into other product development initiatives in progress.

Success has been achieved in the first steps to position Bruce County as the “Lighthouse Destination in Great Lakes Canada”.  The Economic Developers Council of Ontario recognized this new product development as leading edge when it awarded Bruce CFDC with a Marketing Award of Excellence, at the February 2002 EDCO Annual Conference.

The success of this initiative is attributable to the shared vision and creative public-private partnerships employed to bring this product to the market.  Taking note of this success, the provincial Ministry of Tourism has recently approved funding toward implementation of next steps.  Continuance of this new product will be guided by a new “Lighthouse Partners” group who are in process of incorporating to carry-on with expanding and marketing this new economic development product.

Bruce CFDC's initial guidance and funding support has resulted in a tangible new tourism product, which will contribute to higher and longer visitation patterns.  Based on the progress to date, Bruce County is well on the way to being recognized in the tourism marketplace as the “Lighthouse Destination in Great Lakes Canada”.