When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, tourism operators large and small had big decisions to make; most were forced to shut their doors for extended periods of time.
As lockdowns have come and gone, some smaller operators have banded together to make ends meet. At Rockhill B&B, owner Greg Rodgers quickly realized that he’d need to collaborate for his business to survive.
“With the uncertainty of what the summer of 2020 would look like, I initiated a roundtable discussion with several business owners representing different aspects of the industry,” says Rodgers, who is also the chair of the local tourism bureau in the Sharbot Lake area of Southeastern Ontario.
“We believed we were likely to see an influx of travellers from Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa even if we wouldn’t see the international travellers to our region. In normal years we have had guests from 33 different countries.”
With a newly restored trail running behind the B&B in Sharbot Lake and intersecting with the Trans Canada Trail, Rodgers knew it was the “perfect time to act.” He launched Frontenac Trail Tours, a self-guided cycling tour business.
The tours take place over multiple days, which means Rodgers’ Rockhill B&B needed to collaborate with two others — FireFly Adventures and Sumac Centre — to provide safe stays outside of private cottage rentals.
“For any of us to do well, we all have to do well,” says Rodgers. “I believe it takes this spirit of collaboration to achieve the critical mass needed for a tourism region to thrive.”
Rodgers says RockHill B&B still likely would have had a ‘bumper’ season from mid-June through September, even without Frontenac Trail Tours, but it wouldn’t have made up for the business lost in April and May.
“By adding this new dimension to our business, we are dramatically increasing our ability to not only survive the pandemic, but to help launch the region into becoming a major year-round travel destination.”
Coming together to create an experiential opportunity like trail cycling brought renewed attention to the traditional B&B experience Rodgers and the others offered. While their primary focus remains summer cycling tours, they plan to offer snowshoeing and winter camping experiences in the coming years.