Tourism Innovators Awarded In Windsor Essex

Local Tourism Innovators Awarded “Spark” Grants and Mentorship

Windsor, ON – Three finalists who made winning pitches for the second round of the Windsor Essex “Spark” Program were each awarded a $3,000 grant and a tourism mentorship to help take their new tourism ideas to the next level of development.

The “Spark” Mentorships & Grants Program is a partnership between the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab, Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, Libro Credit Union and WEtech Alliance. Its goal is to find, foster and support new tourism ideas, experiences and partnerships that will enhance current offerings, address gaps or challenges, motivate travel and longer stays, and increase year-round visits in the region.

The top five applicants to the Windsor Essex “Spark” Program were invited to present their new tourism idea at a virtual Pitch Session held on January 14th. A judge panel of partner representatives and a tourism innovator from outside the region selected the three winning applicants.

The 2021 Windsor Essex “Spark” Program winners are:

  • Billy Alexander, Caldwell First Nation – Providing hands-on, culinary experiences that focus on Indigenous food, culture and community.
  • Corey Robertson, The Bank Theatre – Point Pelee National Park will act as a new stage for local actors who will provide Spirit Walks or stories to visitors about our various cultures and combine them with related experiences.
  • Leslie Meloche, Walnut Grove B&B – Having a sommelier-guided experience that provides tastings of local wines (of the same varietal) paired with locally sourced tapas/cuisine.

In addition to a source of start-up funds and mentorship, selected applicants gain access to a network of tourism innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders across the province.

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

For more information visit


Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island

Gordon Orr, CEO: “With the advent of the pandemic, the tourism industry has changed drastically over the past year.  Investing in the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab’s “Spark” Mentorships & Grants Program in Windsor Essex two years after its provincial launch here was an easy decision, and the quality of applications and ultimately our 3 winners shows us just how fertile our region is for driving growth in innovation.  The goal is to find and support new ideas that will enhance our tourism offerings and motivate travel to Windsor Essex, particularly as we learn to embrace a new landscape of tourism experiences.”

Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab

Justin Lafontaine, Program Lead: “We congratulate the 3 winners of the second round Windsor Essex “Spark” Program, and are excited to work with them to help develop new and exciting tourism initiatives in the region.”

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 |

Justin Lafontaine, Program Lead, Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab
416.712.8819 |


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