Northern Tourism Businesses Awarded “Spark” Grants and Mentorships


Three finalists who made winning pitches for the Northern Ontario (Special Edition) “Spark” Program were each awarded a $3,000 grant, a 3-month mentorship, and an in-kind bundle of support services from Tourism Excellence North valued at up to $9,500 to help them take their tourism initiatives and businesses to the next level.

Small tourism businesses based in Northern Ontario were encouraged to submit applications with innovative ideas on how they could re-imagine or expand their tourism offerings, products and services to attract new markets and visitors.

Seventeen applications were received from across the North, with the top six being invited to present their new tourism idea at a virtual Pitch Session held on April 22nd. A judge panel of partner representatives and a tourism entrepreneur from outside the region selected the three winning applicants (one from each subregion: Northwest, Central, and Northeastern Ontario).

Bridget Taylor of Tall Pines Camp offering Women’s retreats.
  • Northeastern Ontario: Matthew Larivee, Foxfire Heritage Farm (Yurt, Picnic Area Expansion, Info Signage)
  • Algoma/Central: Erica Hogan, Hogan’s Homestead (Sweetest Destination)
  • Northwest Ontario: Bridget Taylor, Tall Pines Camp (Women’s Retreats)


“We congratulate our 3 winners of the Northern Ontario (Special Edition) “Spark” Program, and are excited to work with them to help develop new and exciting tourism initiatives in the region” said Justin Lafontaine, Program Lead for the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab.

Runners Up:
  • Northeastern Ontario: Allison Easton, Graceful Roots (Guided Forest Therapy Walks)
  • Algoma/Central: Ellen Barber, Red House Ice Cream (Picnic Project)
  • Northwest Ontario: Aric Fishman, Outdoor Skills & Thrills (Rappelling Adventure)

“Tourism Excellence North is committed to raising the bar on visitor value, tourism experiences and business success” said Karen Peacock, Senior Coordinator, Tourism Excellence North. “Through the “Spark” Mentorships & Grants Program, we will be able to offer expert guidance and a source of financial support to enable new tourism programs, business and industry opportunities in Northwest Ontario.”

Matthew Larivee and family, Foxfire Heritage Farm

In addition to a source of funds, mentorship, and tourism business support, selected applicants gain access to a network of tourism innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders across the province.

Innovation in the tourism industry is critical for the region to respond, adapt and recover from the significant impacts and evolving travel landscape as a result of the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.

The Northern Ontario (Special Edition) “Spark” Mentorships & Grants Program is a partnership between Destination Northern Ontario, Tourism Excellence North, and the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab. The program has been previously delivered in Northeastern Ontario and Northwest Ontario, with another round planned for later in 2021.

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