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Tourism grant comes to Guelph to spark new businesses

Successful recipients of the Spark mentorship and grant will receive $3,000 each
Justin Lafontaine from Tourism Innovation Lab announced the Spark program for tourism businesses in Guelph at

A new program aims to bring tourism to Guelph and boost local businesses.

“We have this untapped incubator entrepreneurial spirit of new tourism ideas that's just, as I said, been untapped. So this Spark funding is exactly going to those types of things that our community needs, these ideas that just need that spark to get going,” said Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie.

The Spark program is geared toward individuals who are over the age of 18 and live in Guelph. Also small businesses and non-profit organizations based in Guelph with up to 10 full-time employees.

Businesses and entrepreneurs must fill out an eight-question application.

Successful applicants will receive a three month tourism industry mentorship, $3,000, partner support, network of tourism entrepreneurs and other resources.

There will be a virtual pitch session in front of a panel of judges, similar to the show Dragon’s Den.

Only three applicants will be selected and applications begin Sept. 27 until Nov. 2. The mentorship program lasts between three and four months. Winners receive $3,000 each.

Telling the story of Guelph through visitors and residents is what RTO4 wants to invest in, said Andrea Gardi, executive director of RTO4.

“It's known for its entrepreneurship, it's known for mixing urban with agriculture, agri-tourism,  all the things that kind of combine here,” said Justin Lafontaine, program lead of Tourism Innovation Lab, in reference to Guelph.

To stand out among other applicants, Lafontaine said to create partnerships with other organizations and businesses to show how working together can improve their business.

Some businesses don’t realize they are a tourism business and they do draw visitors into our community, said Kristel Manes, executive director of the Business Centre Guelph-Wellington.

“From a tourism perspective, I think there's so much that can really be sparked and supported here,” said Lafontaine.

The Spark program was launched in 2018 and this is the first time it is being utilized in Guelph.

“With this program, we're finding even our entrepreneurs are being creative in how they change themselves," said Manes, after adapting due to the pandemic.

The City of Guelph is looking to change the definition of tourism from the typical Hawaiian shirt, socks and sandal-wearing tourist to visitors looking to explore the city, said Alex Jaworiwsky, manager of tourism and destination for the City of Guelph.

By building a network in the community who shop local and rebuilding a foundation of business and tourism since the pandemic interrupted it. At the same time businesses adapted to the market, said Jaworiwsky.


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Santana Bellantoni

About the Author: Santana Bellantoni

Santana Bellantoni was born and raised in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. As a general assignment reporter for Guelph Today she is looking to discover the communities, citizens and quirks that make Guelph a vibrant city.
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