Reopening Ontario: Tourism Trends and Opportunities

As tourism businesses have readapted, reviewed and reinvented throughout this pandemic, what sort of trends have been coming out of Ontario? This panel asks tourism leaders from Destination Ontario, Destination Northern Ontario, Indigenous Tourism Ontario and Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) to discuss what has been happening in their communities, and what they predict reopening will look like.

This panel was part of Ontario Culture Days symposium, Now, into the Future: Cultural Tourism in Ontario, held June 16-17, 2021.

Speaker bios


Kathleen Sharpe,
Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund
Kathleen Sharpe is a senior manager in government and the cultural sector. She has been Executive Director of the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund since its inception in 1999. The Fund, a unique program established to support cultural tourism attractions through a combination of grants and loans, has committed over $80 million to more than 800 cultural tourism projects around Ontario. Prior to OCAF, Kathleen was Director of the Culture Division of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, a post she held from 1991 until amalgamation of the municipality into the City of Toronto in 1998. Kathleen has also held management positions at the Ontario College of Art and Design and The Banff Centre and is chair of the Toronto Arts Foundation board. She sits on many advisory committees including those for Nuit Blanche and the Ontario Not for Profit Network.


David MacLachlan,
Destination Northern Ontario
David is the current Executive Director for Destination Northern Ontario, the provincially funded regional tourism organization operating in Region 13 with a mandate to increase tourism receipts through product development, marketing, workforce development and investment attraction. David grew up in the tourism industry and is the third generation to work in the family tourism business started over sixty years ago by his grandfather. David is also a past chair of the Algoma Kinniwabi Travel Association, OTMPC Northern Tourism Marketing Committee and sat on the Board of Directors for OTMPC. Two years ago, Destination Northern Ontario was named Tourism Innovator of the Year for the Tourism Excellence North program at the Ontario Tourism Summit in Windsor. More recently along with Indigenous Tourism Ontario, Destination Northern Ontario was awarded the Ontario Culinary Leadership Award.

Debra Mansillo,
Destination Ontario
Debra is Vice President of Industry Relations and International Marketing at Destination Ontario. Debra has been with the organization since 2003 serving previously as the Director of Marketing to market Ontario as a preferred destination domestically. In her current role, Debra works with a dynamic team to lead the efforts of showcasing Ontario as a global destination. She also strengthens Destination Ontario’s relationships with tourism stakeholders to ensure collaboration, sharing of research information and marketing best practices across the industry. Debra also strives to expand the inclusiveness and diversity of Ontario’s tourism marketing. Her past achievements include delivering the first ever LGBTQ+ Tourism marketing magazine in 2013, and being part of Destination Ontario’s award-winning campaigns such as the 2015 Pan Am/Para pan Am Games ‘Epic is ON’ campaign and the 2017 ‘Where Am I?’ campaign.

Kevin Eshkawkogan,
Indigenous Tourism Ontario
Kevin is an Anishnabek and a member of the M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. He has been a key player in the development of Indigenous cultural tourism since 2003. Kevin was an integral part of the development and growth of the Great Spirit Circle Trail (GSCT), Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre, and Indigenous Tourism Ontario. His 19 years of work has allowed him to achieve his purpose to continue to serve the communal good. He has imparted his guidance to countless Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals, businesses, and organizations throughout Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada, the America’s, and beyond. Kevin works tirelessly to unite Indigenous tourism providers and partners, grow market reach, and bring meaningful employment opportunities to Indigenous people. He views his work as one small way for him to help with cultural and economic reconciliation. In 2015, Kevin was named the Tourism Champion of the Year by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario. He has also been recognized by numerous media outlets for his accomplishments within the industry.He has helped establish or grow close to 50 Indigenous and non-Indigenous corporations such as the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, Northeastern Ontario Tourism, and Destination Northern Ontario.

Christopher Bloore,
Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO)
Christopher Bloore is the President & CEO of TIAO. Leading TIAO’s policy development and government affairs operations, Christopher has helped to shape TIAO’s response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with both the provincial and federal governments, Christopher has brought stakeholders from different sectors together behind shared priorities to deliver necessary economic support packages to tourism businesses across Ontario. Originally from Worcestershire in the United Kingdom, Christopher has over fifteen years of experience working in British politics and overseeing successful national and local election campaigns. As a Senior Advisor to Members of the British Parliament, Christopher has worked in both national policy development and communications. Christopher is a member of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Policy and Advocacy Committee and the WSIB advisory board.