Ottawa Rural Tourism Council
The ORTC is a grass-roots membership based organization that is specifically designed to promote rural businesses to Ottawa’s residents, visitors and tourists. By combining efforts amongst all areas of business in rural Ottawa, we have a stronger presence, voice, visibility and access to high end marketing initiatives usually out of reach to the remotely situated or smaller businesses. Keeping this in mind, Ottawa’s Countryside welcomes the participation of all businesses throughout the City of Ottawa and the surrounding 90 kilometres.
A united promotion of the entire rural area also markedly increases the visibility of each and every neighbourhood, village and township while increasing business opportunities to our members.
The organization operates under the direction of an elected Board of Directors and is guided by its Bylaws which are reviewed at least every two (2) years to ensure their validity to the actual business practice and to ensure they adhere to any Government Guidelines/Policies.
The Council was established as a Not for Profit Incorporation on December 19, 2005. The original Letters Patent had 4 Directors from various business backgrounds.
Although incorporated in 2005, the concept was started in 2002 by the City of Ottawa who asked several rural businesses throughout the area to participate in a pilot project called “Business Retention and Expansion” (BRE); whose primary purpose was to help small and rural business identify what they needed to survive and prosper in a large competitive urban market.
After the completion of the BRE pilot, Mark Saunders from Saunders Farm in Munster Hamlet, Earl Stanley from Stanley’s Olde Maple Farm in Edwards, Syd and Judy Gravel from Penny’s Fudge Factory in Fitzroy Harbour and Thom Van Eagan from the Elk Ranch in rural Kanata continued to meet informally to share a common desire to market small “Mom and Pop’s” in the rural areas of the newly amalgamated City of Ottawa putting the BRE theory to practice. These four (4) businesses formed a group called the Ottawa Rural Tourism Council (ORTC).
The first marketing campaign began in 2003-4 which saw the ORTC hiring an Executive Director and marketing firm, which featured the “Country Routes” section in the Ottawa Citizen. The ORTC received the 2004 award for "Excellence in Partnership" from the Ottawa Tourism Association.
2005 saw the creation of the Ottawa’s Countryside (ORTC’s trade name) logo and theme to encourage visitors to explore the Countryside and its very unique businesses. The campaign focused on the theme; “A DRIVE IN THE COUNTRY IS ONLY THE BEGINNING”, and featured the release of 120,000 copies of the Ottawa’s Countryside Map/Brochure. It also saw the creation of a region-wide TV, and magazine advertising campaign and the creation of a website; www.otttawascountryside.ca. The initial campaign was financially supported by a membership of 35 and sponsorship by the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Tourism.
In January of 2006, the Council received its Business Number with Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. The Board increased to twelve (12) members and had three (3) advisors, one from each of the City of Ottawa, OMFRA, and Ontario Tourism.
The founding objectives of the Corporation were based on the establishment of a marketing association for the purposes of:
a. promoting and protecting the interests and conserving the rights of those engaged in the tourism trade and incidental businesses in the Ottawa Valley;
b. promoting uniformity in usage, custom and trade conditions;
c. providing business information and statistics of interest to business persons in the tourism trade in the Ottawa Valley; and
d. promoting the maintenance and improvement of the qualifications and standards of the tourism trade in the Ottawa Valley; and such other complementary purposes not inconsistent with these objectives.
A special provision was added to the objectives to state that, “The Corporation shall be carried on without the purpose of gain for its members, and any profits or other accretions to the corporation shall be used in promoting its objectives”.
2006 saw a new direction taken with the creation of an Official 2006 Visitor Guide; “Making Memories in the Rural World”. Two editions of the guide were produced with over 210,000 copies distributed by our membership, in the Ottawa Citizen and through the Where distribution stands. Membership also increased markedly. The guide was well received and seen in the hands of many area visitors and residents alike.
Today, the Guide remains as a solid marketing tool for Ottawa’s Countryside and is highly respected in the business community. Its theme varies from year to year but generally encourages the visitor to “Explore or Experience” the Rural World.
Mid 2006 saw a new Executive Director being hired on a contract basis and with this change, promotions and marketing were also brought in-house and managed by the Executive Director and a Board Media Marketing Committee.
Today, the direction of Ottawa’s Countryside continues to be determined yearly by the Board of Directors and approved by the membership at the AGM.
Ottawa’s Countryside is supported financially in part by the City of Ottawa Economic Development Department and through various project grants such as the Rural Association Partnership Program and through programs created internally by the Media Marketing Committee.