Niagara’s popular wine experience brings an estimated seven hundred thousand visitors to the region each year. The vineyards, wineries, and accompanying programmed activities enables Niagara wine country to extend the traditional tourism season, lengthen the average of stay and generate greater visitor spending. Winery tourism is now considered a key to enhancing the overall visitor experience, and positioning Niagara as a premiere regional tourist destination in Canada.

The Niagara Economic Development Corporation (NEDC) report, Energizing Niagara’s Wine Country Communities, received a top award at the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Annual Conference awards ceremony recently.

The report summarized the Wine Country Enhancement Initiative, which began in 2004, led by the Ministry of Tourism, Wine Council of Ontario, Grape Growers of Ontario, the municipalities of Grimsby, Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines, along with the NEDC. An extensive study process was conducted in 2006, which included public consultation workshops, culminating with the report. The strategy summarized in the report builds upon extensive market and tourism research, and supports provincial and regional planning and development policies to move Niagara’s Wine Country to its next level of development. Several development projects have been identified to encourage investment by the private sector and/or joint ventures with the public sector.

These opportunities position the existing wine communities as a world-class tourist destination by adding an array of complimentary tourism assets, specifically heritage and cultural assets that rival other wine regions around the world. Although the main focus is wine and culinary tourism, an innovative outcome from a community economic development perspective is revitalization of the downtown’s of the hamlets and villages within wine country.

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