The whole world is looking at Canada as a cannabis-friendly, legal place to visit and Canadians are talking about embracing that opportunity at events like the New Heights Cannabis Tourism Summit which was held this week at the Blue Mountain Resort in Blue Mountain, Ontario.
The conference was the brainchild of Jennifer Mason, founder of JLM Strategic Marketing. Mason knew there was demand for a conference of this nature, she just didn’t know how much. As Mason put it, “(TIAO) have been inundated with questions about what do we do, or how are we doing this (when it comes to cannabis)” She continues “ I don’t know if you saw Beth Potter (president and CEO of TIAO) speak a little earlier, but as she said, ‘we are just four people and we don’t know ourselves’, and that is why it made sense to partner with us (JLM) because we are into it.”
Jennifer Mason – Principal JLM Strategic Marketing Inc. and Founder New Heights Cannabis
Mason herself opened the conference as the first speaker of the day with her presentation ‘What is Canna Tourism’? As she put it to the crowd of about 140 people, “today is all about whetting our appetite”. And whet their appetites they did as the action packed agenda featured a cross-section of presenters from many different corners of the cannabis industry.
Presenters varied from representatives of burgeoning start ups, to already operational businesses. Panels touched on hot-button topics such as legal, compliance, and social media.
“Cannabis tourism is about more that just experiencing the euphoria from THC. The first step in the marketing and promotion of cannabis tourism is to foster and encourage a range of cannabis-centric tourism experiences, and then to promote the creativity without violating marketing restrictions.”Nathaniel Wilson
Nathaniel Morris CEO and Co-founder Canada’s Cannabis Project
Like everything cannabis today, we are navigating the path of compliance in tandem with the government writing and evolving the rules. As businesses adapt to new regulation, rules seemingly change overnight forcing those businesses to have to change their model mid-stream. The canna-tourism industry is not immune to this. This could explain why one year after the legalization of recreational cannabis, we are still sitting with a virtual untapped market in the cannabis tourism industry. An economy that could bring huge revenue dollars to smaller municipalities, yet still struggles to gain footing in this country. Mason addressed this very issue in her presentation when she referenced a “bring your own cannabis cruise” that was organized to depart Windsor Sept. 20 for a 3 hour cruise of the Detroit River. The cruise was shut down days before the event by the Windsor-Essex County Health unit. The reason given, it is illegal to consume cannabis in any manner in a vehicle or boat. All 160 tickets for the cruise aboard the Macasa Bay tour boat sold out within 48 hours of them going on sale August 10th. As Mason put it, “That is why test and learn is important. You have to be aware of what your risk tolerance is and know that something can go wrong.”
The afternoon opened up with a cooking demonstration featuring Cannabis Cooking Company’s Vanessa Labrecque preparing a cannabis infused, garlic parmesan capellini. WE BET THAT TASTED AS GOOD AS IT LOOKED. David Brott, Vanessa’s partner, filled in the gaps of the demonstration talking about the history of cannabis’ past and predicting where he sees the future with cannabis in relation to cuisine. “Cannabis is relatively unexplored as a culinary ingredient.” says Brott.
“There are 1000’s of strains – all with unique terpene profiles to understand, explore, and pair.”David Brott, Cannabis Cooking Company
He continued “ There is a level of accountability with this ingredient that just doesn’t exist with any other ingredient, but there is also an unprecedented opportunity”.
Without question the most interactive presentation was the 2 hour BigStorming® workshop hosted by Marilyn Barefoot, founder for Barefoot Brainstorming. This got the audience engaged by collaborating with other attendees through brainstorming cannabis tourism ideas. It was hard to determine whether the level of enthusiasm was solely related to Barefoot’s workshop, or may have had something to do with the coffee. Rumour was the staff had run out of the regular Blue Heaven coffee and had inadvertently switched to the promotional hemp based coffee that Gordone Weiske was keeping to give as samples!
Gordon Weiske Director of Entertainment and Media Relations Rolling Greens Golf Course and Ambassador Blue Heaven Coffee
The summit was topped off with a networking cocktail reception that allowed the 100+ delegates an opportunity to have one on one time with the various presenters and sponsors.
Mason summed up the day very well, ” “I like this because it is all about partnerships. Everyone sticks to their lane. When you get all of the subject matter experts partnered together, you are going to have something really strong. Tourism is all about partnerships. You need transportation, hotels, restaurants, activities – so many things. It doesn’t work without the partnership and the community.”
Quick Canadian Tourism facts
- Canada’s tourism industry is thriving, supporting over 1.8 million jobs across the country.
- From January to October 2018, Canada welcomed a record 18.6 million international tourists, an increase of 1.2% over the same period in 2017.
At Can Can Buzz we look forward to the outcome of these type of events and watching Canada really embrace canna-tourism.