Although cannabis tourism in the first G7 country to legalize the plant seems like a given, the sector — as well as the industry at large — has faced an obstacle course of regulatory hurdles. And then Covid-19 happened.
With massive layoffs, asks for sizable bail-outs and calls to ease border restrictions with the U.S., the tourism industry as a whole has become a poster child for the economic impact of the pandemic.
But as legal weed sales reach record highs, and Canadians rediscover their love of glamping, opportunities to cash in on stir-crazed stoners are far from few.
Creating Covid-friendly cannabis experiences is one of the key themes of the New Heights Virtual Canna-Tourism Summit. Hosted by JLM Strategic Marketing and in partnership with the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, the one day event will run from 9:00 a.m. – 4:20 p.m. EST next Wednesday, July 29.
According to JLM president Jennifer Mason, not all of her tourism-related clients are struggling right now.
“I was quite surprised, because when I talked to the executive director of Resorts of Ontario a couple of months ago, she was like, ‘People are bleeding.’ But then a month ago when I talked to the Elmhirst, ClubLink and Sir Sam’s, they were having a great summer so far because of the hyperlocal need for tourism in your own backyard. So it presented a bit of an opportunity for them to actually grow during this time,” she says. “But what the fall and the winter looks like for them is a big question mark.”
When it comes to cannabis, Mason says you can’t build a resort overnight. While it will still take years for the cannabis stigma to fall to the level required for a weed tourism sector to fully flourish, there are still opportunities now and it’s never too early to start planning for that inevitable future.
In addition to being a forum for industry experts and business people to air out relevant industry topics, the online event is also a test of next-generation virtual platforms.
“Early on in Covid, I participated in a number of different leadership-type events online and they were all Zoom and very unsophisticated and they were great. We just needed to connect with people back then,” she says. “But as people spend more time at home and online, expectations change, and also when I do an event, I put my brand behind it.”
So next’s weeks summit has been transparently presented as a tester for the software being used, and both the ticket and exhibitor pricing reflects that, Mason explains.
“We have Covid-price tickets, and I have offered complimentary booths to some businesses like Luxury Coach that were really hard hit because we’re trying to give back and keep just the energy and excitement in the canna-tourism space,” she says. “If we’re going to do the event in the fall this was a great way to dip our toe into the virtual conference world.”
“So that’s where this all came from — truly in the spirit of bringing people together during this difficult time.”
The summit’s agenda features a morning of keynotes, and an afternoon of “choose-your-own-adventure” style topics, with speed networking events mixed in throughout the day. Topics include Canna-Tourism Vision for 2030, presented by Susan Dupej, PhD and tourism researcher at the University of Guelf; Tourism Matters: Recovery During Covid, presented by Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario; Overcoming Regulatory Barriers Panel, moderated by lawyer Matt Maurer of Torkin Manes LLP; and Inclusion in the Cannabis Space, presented by canna-tourism pioneer Danielle Jackson (Miz D), CEO of Dvibz.
A range of tickets are available, including: general admission at $30, free admission for students and a Covid promotion price of $5 for businesses affected by the pandemic.
Top image By Cannabis Tours via Wikimedia Commons: Cannabis tourism has been flourishing in less-regulated legal markets like Colorado’s. This photo shows a tour of a facility tour led by My 420 Tours, which has suspended all operations during Covid-19.