Tourism Windsor Essex Wants to ‘Spark’ Creativity in the Tourism Industry

Program Aims to ‘Spark’ Innovation Tourism Ideas in Windsor Essex with Mentorships and Grants, Building on the Program’s Success Across Ontario

After a successful pilot in 2018, a second round of the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab’s “Spark” Mentorship & Grants Program has been launched in Windsor Essex to encourage individuals, small businesses and non-profit organizations to create new tourism ideas for the region.

The “Spark” Program matches selected applicants with a mentor and provides a $3,000 grant to help take their tourism initiatives to the next level of development.

The goal is to find, foster and support new tourism ideas, experiences, and partnerships that will enhance current offerings, address gaps, motivate travel and increase visits year-round. Organizers are especially interested in ideas that incorporate sustainability, connect with technology, and showcase our diverse communities, history and people.

Applications are being accepted from October 29 to November 30, 2020 at Following a review process, top applicants will be invited to a Finalists’ Pitch Session where three winners will be selected.

Innovation in the tourism industry is critical for the region to respond, adapt and recover from the significant impacts of the evolving travel landscape as the result of the COVID-19 health and economic crises.

The Windsor Essex “Spark” Program is a partnership between the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab and founding partners Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport Tourism & Culture Industries, Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation, and Libro Credit Union.

For more information on the Windsor Essex “Spark” Mentorships & Grants Program, application guide, and info sessions visit


Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island
Gordon Orr, CEO: “During this pandemic, bringing the “Spark Program” back to Windsor Essex acts as a catalyst for causing trailblazers within the industry to come together.  The end result will be the generation of new ideas and experiences which will shed light on the versatility and opportunities that can be had for visitors and locals alike.”

Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation
Jim Hudson, Executive Director: “As a Founding Partner of the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab, SWOTC is thrilled to collaborate on this second round of the Windsor Essex “Spark” Program. The program has already generated over 60 new tourism ideas in 3 southwest Ontario regions and connected 9 tourism entrepreneurs with mentors, grants and other support. Congratulations, we have high expectations for continued spectacular achievements!”

Libro Credit Union
Lori Atkinson, Regional Manager: “Libro is thrilled to support the next iteration of the ‘Spark’ tourism innovation program in Windsor-Essex,” said Lori Atkinson, Regional Manager Windsor-Essex. “Libro is ‘loyal to local’ and is committed to building strong, resilient and prosperous communities in southwestern Ontario.  The tourism sector is a critical component to growing, developing and sustaining our vibrant communities.”

Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab
Justin Lafontaine, Program Lead: “We are very excited to be launching a second round of the “Spark” Program in our home region of Windsor Essex. Since our founding in 2018, the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab has sparked over 125 new tourism ideas and supported 28 tourism innovators across the province through mentorships and grants.”

About Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island:

Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island is the official Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for the regional tourism industry that is dedicated to promoting and selling Windsor, Essex and Pelee Island as a remarkable destination for tourist, convention goers and business travelers. As a tourism industry collaborative, Tourism Windsor Essex is committed to enhancing the region’s economy and quality of life through:

  • Supporting destination development and industry operators;
  • Actively facilitating partner engagement;
  • Effectively marketing our destination.

About the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab:

The Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab is a non-profit initiative created to find, foster and support new tourism ideas, experiences and partnerships, to cultivate and propel collaborations between the tourism and tech sectors, and to build a community of tourism innovators, idea makers and entrepreneurs in Ontario. Launched as a pilot in Windsor Essex in 2018, the Lab and its “Spark” Mentorships & Grants Program are expanding to new regions across the province. The Lab is a program of Hackforge and is based at the University of Windsor-EPICentre.


Lynnette Bain, Vice President Destination Development, Tourism Windsor Essex
519.563.8192 | [email protected]

Justin Lafontaine, Program Lead, Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab
416.712.8819 | [email protected]



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