TWEPI boasts increased numbers in social media, web and hotel activity



By Ron Giofu


Representatives from Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) were at Essex County council at their most recent meeting with improvements being touted in several areas.

TWEPI CEO Gordon Orr, vice president Lynnette Bain and director of marketing Kris Racine were at county council’s most recent meeting updating the elected officials about what the tourism agency has been doing. Highlights included a new logo, the “Where Can We Take You” and “Visit Your Neighbour” campaigns and the fact four conferences either have been or will be in the Windsor-area this year.  The Barrels, Bottles and Breweries tours along with coffee trails and “We Heart Local” campaigns were also highlighted for county council.

Some of the big gains have been made online, with statistics showing that unique visitors to the website have risen 12.9 per cent over the last year. Social media activity has been on the rise with Facebook activity going up 49.9 per cent, Instagram 19.3 per cent and Twitter 75.6 per cent.

“We’re seeing double-digit growth in all social media platforms. It’s a great way to push out content,” said Orr. “Social media teases the receiver and then they click on and they go back to our website where they get more information. They’re given a number of reasons of where we can take you when they come to visit Windsor-Essex and Pelee Island.”

Kris Racine, Gordon Orr and Lynnette Bain appeared before Essex County council at their most recent meeting providing an update on the area’s tourism and social media activity.

Orr said TWEPI is also offering a pilot project where grants are awarded to those with new tourism ideas and the funds are used to develop them. That program has resulted in innovative ideas and job creation, he stated.

Hotel occupancy in Windsor-Essex County has risen 1.2 per cent in terms of overnight stays while overall occupancy has increased 4.95 per cent in the last year.

“Those are positive figures because for a lot of years they were kind of flat-lined. More people are staying overnight and when they’re staying overnight they’re spending more money in the region,” Orr said. “Everyone right from Windsor to Haldimand County, Windsor-Essex has seen the most positive hotel growth in that entire region. So it’s not everybody, it’s Windsor-Essex that’s doing very well. London is doing well but we usually beat them or we come close to doing it on a quarterly basis.”

Orr acknowledged that Amherstburg is working to land a hotel, with Lakeshore and Tecumseh also wanting one as well.

Warden Tom Bain thanked the TWEPI officials for their hard work and for keeping county council informed.

“We appreciate you coming in and keeping us up to speed on the work you are doing,” he said.


Numerous local events, festivals and sites of for TWEPI “Best of Windsor-Essex” awards



By Ron Giofu


A number of Amherstburg sites, events and businesses have been nominated for Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) awards but they need the support of the public to win them.

The Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest has been nominated in the “Best Local Festival – Food & Drink” category but people have to vote for them online at

The Ribfest is in its ninth year and committee chair Carl Gibb said the idea originated from current Rotary Club president Dan Hunt. As many as 15,000 people have attended in some years with the hope this year being for 20,000 people.

“It feels good to be recognized,” said committee member Laura George.

George said the Ribfest is evidence that good things happen when people work together. She added the

Gibb said this year’s festival, planned for July 6-8, will see the committee “ramping up the food choices and entertainment level.” Proceeds from the Ribfest will be put towards “a major project for the town.”

Over 150 volunteers are needed annually for Ribfest. Those interested in volunteering for this year’s Ribfest can contact George at 519-982-2684.

The Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest is one of the Amherstburg-related business, festivals, sites or organizations up for a “Best of Windsor-Essex” award.

Other nominees include a former winner in the Gibson Gallery. The Gibson Gallery is nominated in the favourite art gallery or art space category. Art by the River is nominated in the Best Local Festival – Arts category. In the Best Local Festival – Community Holiday Event category, the River Lights Winter Festival is one of the nominees.

There are two Amherstburg nominees in the Best Museum/Heritage Space category. The Amherstburg Freedom Museum and Fort Malden National Historic Site are up for that award. Fort Malden is also nominated in the Best Local Attraction – Historical category and the Best Photo Op category, with Navy Yard Park also being nominated for the latter.

The Fort Family Fun Centre can be voted for the Best Family Friendly Attraction.

Nominated in the Best Cultural or Heritage District category is the Amherstburg historical district. The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce received a nomination in the Best Shopping District category.

An “Art of the Cocktail” nomination went to Wolfhead Distillery while Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery received a nomination in the Best Local Winery category. Maria’s Restaurant was nominated in the Best Breakfast category while the Best Burger section saw Gilligan’s get a nomination.

Three pizza restaurant chains with Amherstburg locations received nominations in the Best Pizza category, with those including Armando’s, Capri and Naples.

The River Canard Canoeing Company was nominated in the Best On the Water Activity category while the King’s Navy Yard Park received nominations for the Best Picnic Spot and Best Park/Garden awards.

Wildwood Golf & RV Resort and Willowood RV Resort each received nominations for Best Cottage and Best Campground with the latter also having Holiday Beach nominated.

Smashed Apple Gourmet Catering is up for Best Sandwich Shop while the Bondy House is up for Best Bed & Breakfast.

Voting is underway and runs through March 11 at 11:59 p.m. Winners will be announced by TWEPI April 17. People can only vote once per e-mail.

Tourism stats on the rise, TWEPI officials tell county council



By Ron Giofu


Tourism statistics are on the rise in Windsor-Essex County, according to representatives from Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI).

TWEPI CEO Gordon Orr, vice president of tourism programs and development Lynnette Bain and director of marketing and special events Kris Racine appeared before Essex County council last Wednesday night. They pointed out the area won the Ontario Culinary Tourism Experience award last year, as well as the Motorcities National Heritage Area’s Award of Excellence in Tourism. TWEPI was a finalist for the Ontario Culinary Tourism Leadership Award.

Launched in 2016 was the Barrels, Bottles and Brews Trail, the waterfront trail on Pelee Island and a regional tourism committee.

Orr pointed out TWEPI has modified its logo to be similar to the Canada 150 logo, launched a new website ( to promote local Canada 150 events and the hashtag #WE150. He added their “Plenty of Reasons” campaign continues to promote the region’s attractions.

Lynnette Bain, Gordon Orr and Kris Racine from TWEPI addressed Essex County Council at the May 17 meeting.

Lynnette Bain, Gordon Orr and Kris Racine from TWEPI addressed Essex County Council at the May 17 meeting.

Bain noted they received a $30,000 grant from the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership as well. They are increasing their marketing presence and that includes social media in both Canada and the United States. She said they are doing a digital targeting campaign to attract more visitors. She also cited WDIV-TV in Detroit as being one of the many partners they have in the United States to attract visitors.

Bain said after news stories aired on WDIV about winery and cycling tours, TWEPI immediately got calls stating there was a jump in business.

“Channel 4 has been very good to us,” she said.

The 2017-18 marketing plan focuses on pillars such as arts and culture, outdoor adventure, food and drink and entertainment. Growth from 2015 to 2016 included a 4.85 per cent jump in hotel occupancy in Windsor-Essex, an $8.56 jump in the average daily room rate and a 3.97 per cent increase in American residents entering Canada.

There has also been a 32.9 per cent jump in “unique visitors” to TWEPI’s website – – from 2016 to 2017 with social media statistics climbing as well.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara thanked TWEPI for its help during last year’s AMO Conference, noting the area’s “best kept secrets” are coming out in the open.

“More people are taking advantage of them,” said McNamara, adding the area’s volunteer base is strong as well.

Amherstburg does well in TWEPI’s “Best of Windsor-Essex” awards



By RTT Staff


Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) announced the winners of the second edition of the “Best of Windsor Essex” awards last Wednesday with Amherstburg doing well in the balloting.

The awards, a campaign by TWEPI that ran from January to February 2017, tried to put together the most comprehensive list of the “Best Of” things to see and do in the region. According to a media release put out by TWEPI, this year’s campaign drew on the success of last year’s inaugural campaign and was able to draw “an even more enthusiastic response from local residents and visitors eager to share their favorite attractions.”

TWEPI states that in the first phase of the campaign, over 785 unique Windsor-Essex locations were nominated for the 43 awards. Those nominations were then pared down into the top five in each category.

The second phase then began with over 7,000 people voting again on the top five in each category for their favorite spots in Windsor-Essex.

TWEPI states this campaign “has created an authentic list that is expected to resonate with visitors, giving TWEPI the opportunity to highlight some of the best of what the region has to offer.”

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Fort Malden won TWEPI’s “Best Local Attraction - Historical” award.

“This year’s campaign drew an even higher engagement rate than last year from both businesses and their fans alike. Locals are justifiably proud of our area and we anticipate that this list will inspire locals and visitors alike to explore our region’s iconic experiences, hidden gems and everything in between,” says Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island.

Amherstburg businesses, attractions or historic sites made the list 18 times with three being named as winners. Wolfhead Distillery won for “Best Distillery Experience” while Fort Malden National Historic Site captured the “Best Local Attraction – Historical” award. Armando’s won for “Best Pizza,” with that award covering all Armando’s locations in the area.

The Gibson Gallery, a winner of a “Best of Windsor Essex” award in 2016, was a finalist for “Best Art Gallery or Art Space” in 2017. The Amherstburg historical district was a finalist in the “Best Cultural or Historic District” category while Fort Malden was also a finalist in the “Best Museum or Heritage Space” classification.

The Libro Centre was a finalist for the “Best Local Attraction – Sports.”

Wolfhead was also a finalist in another category as well, that being the “Best Craft Cocktail” grouping. Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery was a finalist for “Best Winery Experience.”

Smashed Apple Gourmet Catering were finalists in the “Best Chef-Inspired Dining” and “Best Sandwich Shop” categories while Maria’s was a finalist for “Best Breakfast.”

There were four Amherstburg-related finalists as it pertains to outdoor adventure categories. The River Canard Canoe Company was a finalist for the “Best on the Water Activity” award while Navy Yard Park finished in the running for the “Best Park or Garden” award. Holiday Beach Conservation Area was a finalist in the “Best Picnic Spot” category while the Cypher Systems Greenway was nominated in the “Best Two-Wheel Adventure” category.

There were two local businesses in the “Best Cottage or Campground” group including Wildwood Golf and RV Resort in McGregor and Willowood RV Resort.

Visitor information manager Jennifer Ibrahim said it’s a great sign for Amherstburg that so many locations within this community either won an award or were in the running.

Many finalists were Amherstburg organizations and it goes to show you that a smaller community like Amherstburg can hold its own,” said Ibrahim.  “Being a ‘Best Of Windsor Essex’ winner means the region likes what these businesses are doing and wants them to keep doing what they do best!  Our local winners, Fort Malden National Historic Site, Armando’s and Wolfhead Distillery are examples of three completely different organizations that deliver valued unique experiences to their guests.  If someone hasn’t been to any of the listed nominees, they should check them out and see what all the excitement is about.”

Update given, concerns raised on Harvest Festival

By Ron Giofu


Concerns were raised over this September’s Harvest Festival but town officials have said it is not a town event.

Councillor Diane Pouget said questions over the Harvest Festival, planned for Sept. 9-11 at Fort Malden, have been raised to her and she told residents that town council has not discussed or endorsed the festival. She wanted assurances no tax dollars have been spent on it and was also concerned over liability involving town staff.

“I’m really, really concerned over liability to our town due to the ongoing court case in November,” she said, in reference to the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival’s court case. “I want to ensure the town and its employees are being protected.”

CAO John Miceli said it is at Fort Malden and he is not planning on presenting a report to council due to the town not officially participating.

“It is not a town event,” said Miceli. “The town really doesn’t have any participation with this event.”

Tourism staff members Anne Rota and Jennifer Ibrahim are working with festival organizers, which include the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC), but that is their role with the town and falls within their job descriptions, said Miceli.

“We need to embrace these events because they are generating an impact,” said Councillor Leo Meloche. “Yes, there are risks. There are risks waking up in the morning.”

Meloche said the town “can’t play dead” and festivals like the Harvest Festival can showcase the town like Communities in Bloom does.


Pouget said she didn’t oppose the event but wanted to ensure the town didn’t face liability or put money towards it. She said she hopes the ACOC is successful.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo declared conflict and did not participate in the discussion. DiCarlo is helping to chair the organizing committee and previously told the River Town Times he is not acting in his role as mayor while working on the festival.

Organizers issued a press release Tuesday morning with an update about the event.

“Windsor Essex Harvest Festival is all about the things that make the Windsor-Essex region extraordinary!” it reads. “The festival will feature a local beverage component, as well as pair food growers and producers together with local chefs and restaurants to prepare exclusive culinary tastes with ingredients that are grown right here in our own backyard.”

Organizers stated the Windsor Essex Harvest Festival and Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island have aligned with the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance (OCTA) “which connects taste-makers sharing their stories and sparking delicious development in culinary tourism. One such program is the Feast ON certification. Feast ON builds relationships and promotes sourcing Ontario food & drink. Feast ON certifies that at least 50 per cent of the food and beverage served at the festival is grown or produced in Ontario. As part of this alignment, WE Harvest Festival will be the first Feast ON certified event in Essex County!”

“Our goal is to rise above the standard offerings of a culinary festival. This gives our vendors the opportunity to partner with growers and producers in Ontario but more importantly close to home with a focus on a unique taste of Windsor Essex. I believe our festival goers are in for a treat!” DiCarlo said in the release.

“The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce is to be commended for creating a Windsor Essex Harvest Festival to celebrate local food and drink. This builds upon our culinary tourism strategy and provides a perfect setting on the banks of Fort Malden to showcase the best our region has to offer from products grown and/or produced in our own backyard,” added Gordon Orr; CEO Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI).

For more information, visit