Spark Program Mentorship Grants
Do you have a new tourism idea for Windsor Essex? ​If so, we want to hear from you!...
Do you have a new tourism idea for Windsor Essex?
​If so, we want to hear from you!

Whether you are an individual, a start-up or an established small business or non-profit organization, there can be many challenges and barriers to bringing a new tourism idea, experience or partnership to fruition.

​We want to help. The “Spark” Program will match selected candidates with a tourism mentor and provide a source of financial support to help take your great new tourism idea to the next level of development or implementation.

Our goal is to inspire Windsor Essex residents, entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profit organizations to come forward with creative ideas that will generate new tourism opportunities, experiences and partnerships in the region.

The program includes:

  • Call out for applications from individuals, small businesses and non-profits
  • Application reviews by a jury including local and provincial tourism leaders and innovators
  • Finalists’ Pitch Session (our friendly take on a tourism Dragon’s Den)
    – Save the date: January 14, 2021 at 11:00am-1:00pm
  • Selection of 3 winning applicants from Windsor Essex

Selected applicants will receive:

  • 3 month mentorship with a tourism innovator, experienced operator, industry leader and/or sector expert
  • $3,000 “Spark” grant to support tourism idea development activities
  • Access to a support network of tourism innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders
  • Ongoing guidance on other resources and support services provided by partners

All program applicants will be invited to join our “Spark” community of tourism innovators, idea makers, partners and supporters for special networking events, one-on-one’s, and development workshops.

Application Deadline: November 30, 2020

Windsor Essex “Spark” Application Guide

Who Can Apply?

  • Individuals 18+ who live/work in Windsor Essex
  • Small businesses (up to 10 FT employees) based in Windsor Essex 
  • Small non-profit organizations (up to 10 FT employees) based in Windsor Essex

What Are We Looking For?
We are looking for new tourism experiences, product ideas and collaborative partnerships based in Windsor Essex that address one or more of the following:

  • Enhances current tourism offerings
  • Creates new, high-quality tourism experiences
  • Addresses gaps in tourism products and services
  • Motivates travel, longer stays and repeat visits
  • Increases year-round visitation and tourism spending

NOTE: While there are no specific categories, we are especially interested in new tourism ideas that incorporate sustainable tourism principles, connect with technology, celebrate our diverse communities, people, cultures & history, and adapt to the evolving travel landscape. Some examples include eco-tours, shoulder season and winter experiences, Black history and the Underground Railroad, Indigenous tourism programming, family “bubble” packages and other adaptive offerings. 

What Is A “Tourism” Idea?
Experiences, products and partnerships that motivate travel to your region by people living more than 40km away, across the provincial border or internationally, and provide engagement, participation, purchasing and/or travel related opportunities while they are visiting.

What Do We Mean By “New / Early Stage / Start Up”?
Tourism experiences, products and partnerships that are in the ideation stage, have just been created, are under development, or have been promoted/offered publicly for 6 months or less.

Other “Tourism” Definitions and Examples
Experiences: Opportunities for visitors to engage, participate, interact, learn and explore in a region to get a local understanding and broader awareness of a destination, often combining different elements (eg. farmers market tour followed by a culinary class led by a local chef)
Products: Buyable goods and services related to tourism in the region (eg. accommodations, attractions, tours, ticketed events, travel packages and other tourism bundles)
Collaborative Partnerships: Two or more businesses/organizations working together to promote and/or deliver a new tourism related experience or product (eg. Metro Zoo + Cycling Group = “Jungle Ride” event)

Application Deadline: November 30, 2020

Program Info Sessions

Interested in applying to the Windsor Essex “Spark” Program? Join us on an upcoming Info Session (webinar) to learn more:

Thursday, November 12 @ 11:30am-12:15pm – REGISTER
Monday, November 23 @ 5:00-5:45pm – REGISTER

“Spark” Program Application

How to Apply?
Submit a 1,000 word maximum document with responses to each of the following 8 questions:
1. Contact information (name, phone number, email, organization name, website)
2. Tell us about yourself, your small business or non-profit organization.
3. What’s your new tourism idea?
4. How is your idea innovative or unique?
5. What stage are you at with your idea?
6. Who are your target market(s) and/or partner(s)?
7. How would you utilize the “Spark” mentorship and grant funds if selected?
8. What are your hoped for outcomes and impacts?

Copy and paste these questions into a word document and provide a response for each, keeping the full application document to 1,000 words or less. 

In addition to the application document, please include a file or link to a 1 minute maximum unedited, unproduced video introducing yourself, your small business, or non-profit organization, and your new tourism idea. For example, use your smart phone to take the video, and then upload it to a file sharing service (eg. Dropbox, Google Docs) or a publicly accessible video sharing website such as YouTube (if you don’t want other people to find it, mark it as unlisted) and include the file or link in your email with your application document.

IMPORTANT: Both the 1,000 word maximum document and 1 minute maximum video are required for a complete application submission. Incomplete applications or applications that are above the maximum word/time limits will not be reviewed. 

Application Submission
​Please submit your application to by November 30, 2020 and include “Windsor Essex” in the subject line. Emails will be sent within 24 hours to confirm receipt of all applications. If you do not receive a confirmation email, send another email or call 1-844-455-0325 toll-free / 416-712-8819 to make sure we received your application. Applications submitted after the deadline will not be accepted or reviewed.

Your Application and Personal Information
By submitting an application you agree that all of the information contained in your application is complete and accurate. You also consent that the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab and its partners may collect the personal information contained herein within the application review process and for future program related communications. Your application will be kept confidential during the review period. All review jury decisions are final and cannot be appealed.