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County looking to fund ideas that 'spark' tourism

Deadline for second intake of Spark program is Oct. 26
The County of Simcoe Administration Centre is shown in this file photo.

The County of Simcoe, Regional Tourism Organization 7, and the Tourism Innovation Lab are celebrating World Tourism Day on Sept. 27 with the relaunch of a mentorships and grants program designed to ‘spark’ and support entrepreneurs and organizations with innovative tourism ideas for Simcoe County.

The Spark program was first launched in 2018 by the Tourism Innovation Lab and has now been delivered in over 40 regions across Ontario and British Columbia. Its goal is to find, foster and support new tourism ideas that will enhance current offerings, address gaps or challenges, motivate travel and longer stays, increase year-round visits.

In 2022, three selected applicants were matched with a mentor and provided $3,000 in seed funds to help them get started with their new tourism ideas. Previous Simcoe County recipients successfully pitched poetry concerts, art experiences, and year-round nature retreats and adventures.

For this second Spark program application intake, organizers are especially interested in tourism ideas that will incorporate, address and advance sustainability, waterways and Indigenous tourism in Simcoe County. Individual entrepreneurs, small businesses, non-profits and community groups are encouraged to apply with their new tourism ideas for Simcoe County by Oct. 26, 2023. Following a juried review process, five finalists will be invited to a virtual pitch session where three winners will be selected to receive mentorships and grants.

The Simcoe County Spark program is led by the Tourism Innovation Lab in collaboration with Tourism Simcoe County and Regional Tourism Organization 7. For more information and to register for an info session, visit

“The success of our small businesses is essential to support the future of Simcoe County. The county is pleased to work with our tourism partners again to build up this program in our area. The Spark program is a great way to help our entrepreneurs succeed and encourage new tourism ideas within Simcoe County. I look forward to seeing the creative ideas flow and our tourism sector continue to grow.” — Basil Clarke, warden, County of Simcoe

“We are excited to see Simcoe County launch the second round of the Spark program with the Innovation Lab. We’ve seen the benefits to local entrepreneurs in Simcoe County as they launched and grew their ideas. We can’t wait to see what the ideas and experiences are.” — Bill Sullivan, RTO7

“After a great response in 2022, we are excited to be launching the second round of the Spark program in Simcoe County. We encourage entrepreneurs, small businesses and organizations across the region to come forward with innovative ideas that will elevate Simcoe County’s tourism offerings and experiences and inspire travel to the region.” — Justin Lafontaine, program lead, Tourism Innovation Lab