Bringing the world into our backyard is a lot of responsibility. Of course, we want to show global tourists all of the wonderful things that Ontario has to offer, but what about the economic and environmental impact? Tourism demands a solid infrastructure to guarantee that our visitors are experiencing the best we have to offer and — in the case of culinary tourism — getting a true taste of place.
From culinary tourism delegates who are leveraging the history, heritage and culture behind the food and drink of each region to the friends who gave motels a makeover and made undesirable destinations the talk of the town, these individuals are inspiring visitors from near and far.
We’ve handpicked the tourism gurus who have helped put the structures in place and encouraged travel in our beautiful province.
President and CEO, Indigenous Tourism Ontario
Kevin Eshkawkogan is an Anishnabek and a member of the M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. For 20 years, he has been a key player in the development of Indigenous cultural tourism in Ontario. He was an integral part of the development and growth of the Great Spirit Circle Trail (GSCT), which provides culturally authentic Indigenous experiences to visitors, along with marketing support to Indigenous operators. Eshkawkogan has provided leadership to GSCT for over 15 years and has imparted his guidance to countless individuals throughout Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada and beyond. He works tirelessly to unite Indigenous tourism providers, grow market reach and bring meaningful employment opportunities to the region. Eshkawkogan helped establish Indigenous Tourism Ontario, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada and many other tourism organizations and businesses. In 2015, he was named the Tourism Champion of the Year by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario.
President and CEO of the Culinary Tourism Alliance
Passionate about the interconnection between food, agriculture, tourism, arts and culture, Rebecca Mackenzie has been instrumental in developing tourism experiences including Prince Edward County’s award-winning Taste Trail and the Culinary Tourism Alliance’s Feast On certification program. In her role as president and CEO of the Culinary Tourism Alliance, Mackenzie manages community development projects at the regional, provincial and national levels. She oversees programming, partnership development and comprehensive marketing partnerships that aim to increase awareness of Canada’s food tourism offerings, including the recently launched Great Taste of Canada. Mackenzie has also supported the development of the Food Tourism Entrepreneurship post-graduate program at George Brown College, where she is also a part-time professor.
Chair of the Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations
Acclaimed chef Joseph Shawana is Odawa, part of the Three Fires Confederacy. Born and raised in Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Shawana was brought up knowing that food is life. Combining his traditional French training with his Aboriginal background, Shawana’s cooking infuses classical French techniques with Native American cuisine. He is a professor and Indigenous culinary advisor at Ontario’s Centennial College, and has developed a program to provide Indigenous youth with the opportunity to work alongside chefs. Shawana is the chair of ICAN, the Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations. Under his leadership and guidance, ICAN is dedicated to breaking barriers and sharing Indigenous food, culinary and cultural experiences from across Canada with the world.
Co-founder and CEO of Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce
Darrell Schuurman believes that positive social change happens through the economic empowerment of LGBT+ entrepreneurs. He is the co-founder and CEO of Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC), a national not-for-profit organization with a mission to expand the opportunities and advancement of the LGBT+ business community in Canada. The CGLCC connects 2SLGBTQI+ businesses to global networks and corporations with vested interests in diverse procurement. The organization believes these relationships can and will build a more inclusive Canada. THE CGLCC also helps businesses looking to form more inclusive cultures or programming, through inclusivity and market-preparedness training. Additionally, Schuurman is the co-founder of the Canadian Gay & Lesbian Business Education Foundation and Travel Gay Canada.
General manager, Exhibition Place
As general manager, Exhibition Place, Laura Purdy is responsible for the management of Canada's largest convention and exhibition complex, Enercare Centre and Beanfield Centre. She provides strategic leadership to venue event operations including sales, security, transportation, technical production and event management teams who support the convention centre clients and permanent tenants across the 192-acre Exhibition Place site. For 25 years, Purdy has been a leader and influencer in the meetings, exhibition and convention industry in Canada. An active member of several industry associations, she currently serves on the Board of the Convention Centres of Canada, Canadian Association of Exposition Management and Meetings Mean Business Canada, and is a founding member of Women in Exhibitions North America.
April Brown & Sarah Sklash
Co-founders of The June Motel
Always a fan of a girls’ getaway to wine country, April Brown and her best friend Sarah Sklash were craving something new, so in 2016, they ditched their desk jobs and bought a dingy roadside motel with the goal of converting it into the ultimate destination for rosé lovers everywhere. Brown and Sklash co-founded The June Motel and starred in the Netflix series, Motel Makeover, following the renovation of The June. In addition to having a keen eye for design, Brown’s decade of experience behind massively successful PR campaigns made her the perfect curator behind The June Motel’s lively social media presence, which has gained a global following and become a huge driver of their business. Before opening The June, Sklash spent a decade working in public service, focused on creating customer-centric, efficient processes. She continues to focus on keeping operations running smoothly at The June and is always seeking to make the guest experience as great as possible.
CEO of Base 31
Change-maker, social entrepreneur and thought leader, Tim Jones has made profound and unique contributions to arts, culture and urban development communities in Toronto, Canada and around the world. He’s the CEO of Base 31, a new cultural destination on the site of a former 70-acre WWII air training base in Picton, Ontario. The area has undergone an ambitious revitalization program that includes the adaptive re-use of many of the heritage buildings, transformation of the landscape and significant investment in placemaking, public art, programming, site activation and food and beverage. Base 31 is now home to over 70 tenants including galleries, retailers, makers, artists, landscapers, services and trades. Jones has brought together more than 100 local collaborators to join forces on the revitalization of Base31.
President of Henry of Pelham
Along with his father and brothers Matthew and Daniel, Paul Speck planted the original vineyards and began the business development of Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery in 1984. Speck became president of Henry of Pelham in 1989, and set it on course to become one of the leading national growers and producers of fine Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wines, specifically from Niagara. Now, Henry of Pelham wines are available across Canada and in over 20 countries around the world. Speck is a founding director and current board member of the VQA and continues to play an active role in promoting and developing the premium wine industry in Canada. He is also on the board of Ontario Craft Wineries and the Canadian Winegrowers Association.