On Monday, February 8, 2021, Mayor Drew Dilkens and Windsor City Councillors will convene in a special meeting of council to discuss a new report entitled, “Windsor Works: An economic development strategy for the city’s future growth”.
Part of the proposal identifies focusing on Windsor’s rich whisky and prohibition history for development. Over the last 3+ years, WindsorEats has been working diligently to develop Windsor as Whiskytown Canada with success. Here is our letter to the mayor and council in support of that particular recommendation in the report.
Mayor and Councillors,
WindsorEats would like to formally acknowledge our support for portions of the report, “Windsor Works: An economic development strategy for the city’s future growth”.
In particular, we agree with the recommendation of focusing on developing Windsor as a prohibition/whisky destination. In fact, over the last 3 years, WindsorEats has already identified whisky as an integral part of our city’s destination DNA and has begun the work in creating the foundation for visitors and locals alike to embrace that part of our identity.
Over the last 3 years, our goal has been to create a foundation of whisky experiences complimenting our region’s unique DNA and history through developing experiential tourism, marketing and branding Windsor as Whiskytown Canada.
WindsorEats is a national award winning, for-profit destination and experience management organization with a focus on culinary tourism. Our events include the Drinks of Walkerville tour, Whiskytown Festival, Windsor Craft Beer Festival, Urban Wine Fest, Dinner on a Pier, and many others. Food and drink is the essence of what we do. WindsorEats was the first organization in Windsor-Essex to make a concerted and dedicated effort to promote culinary tourism in our region. We are the leading organization for food and drink based events in Essex County.
WindsorEats isn’t solely about showcasing and offering quality Canadian products. The goal is to provide memorable experiences around those products and create a personal connection with each of our customers while showcasing our region’s taste of place.
As a small business, we’ve been taking small, but calculated and successful steps in having residents and visitors identify Windsor as Whiskytown Canada. Some of our achievements with this initiative are:
- Creating and establishing a walking experience focused on the history of our whisky, prohibition and Hiram Walker, called the Drinks of Walkerville. This tour has been designated an Ontario Signature Experience. The tour celebrates what is unique and exceptional about Canada’s southernmost city, delves into its distilling and rum running history.
- Creating and establishing a unique and popular whisky-based festival called, Whiskytown Festival. The festival has been held since 2018 and showcases whisky and our whisky history. Respected brand ambassadors from across North America attended to showcase their whiskies alongside Windsor and Canadian made whiskies to festival goers.
- Taking steps towards an established “whisky week”. In 2020, WindsorEats hosted some of North America’s most esteemed whisky professionals in a week-long discussion of whisky. These live discussions received thousands of viewers.
- Major publications identifying Windsor, Ontario as Whiskytown, Canada. These include the LCBO’s popular Food & Drink magazine, as well as the Porter Airlines magazine, re:porter.
- WindsorEats has developed a signature cocktail for Whiskytown Canada, complete with a storyline of its creation and ingredients used.
The Windsor Works report states that, “the majority of Prohibition Week events would be held by private companies/bars/restaurants rather than the city itself” and that “the city would play more of a convening role, bringing together and publicising all of the different events”. WindsorEats would love to offer ourselves in a key role as we have already laid a majority of the groundwork, which would help reduce the investment of dollars and man hours required. Having been previously named the Best Small-Medium Sized Tourism Business by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, a collaboration between WindsorEats and the City of Windsor would ensure the creation of an initiative focused on driving results.
WindsorEats is also finalizing an application to the Canada Experiences Fund to be able to further invest in our Whiskytown Canada initiative. Support for our application from the municipality would go a long way in helping secure this funding and build upon this common goal of Windsor being a whisky destination.
The objective of our Whiskytown Canada initiative is to raise the profile of Canadian whisky and have Windsor become the epicentre for Canadian whisky. Through branding, marketing and developing experiential tourism, our goal is to bring awareness and education regarding Windsor’s role in Canadian distilling history.
Windsor and our region have a rich whisky history that no other region in North America can compete with, including Kentucky. Our project aims to actively promote Windsor as Whiskytown, Canada. It is home to North America’s largest distillery and Hiram Walker’s world-famous Canadian Club whisky was founded here. Visitors and locals are surrounded by the impact that whisky had on this region. To this day, it activates all your senses. You can smell the drying grains from the distillery in every corner of town. Even the auto industry got its start in Windsor because of Ford family connections to the Walker family.
We plan to build a foundation with the Whiskytown brand to connect consumers with this growing niche market and increase the economic impact of tourism within the region and allow stakeholders an opportunity to build upon it. It will connect consumers to the region’s DNA through special events, tours, festivals, programming and pageantry. Whiskytown will be the draw to entice overnight visitation and benefit other tourism sectors such as gaming and culinary.
With a properly executed and successful marketing campaign and the development of existing and new experiences, Whiskytown Canada has the potential to increase tourism, tourism spending, overnight stays and contribute to the diversification of the local and surrounding economy.
Kentucky saw almost 2 million visitors in 2018 because of their distilleries, which are mostly scattered through desolate country sides. Windsor is home to North America’s largest distillery located in a metropolitan area, just 10 minutes from downtown Detroit. This population density allows whisky tourism potential to be almost limitless. You can take culinary tours, walk from the distillery, through a shopping and entertainment district and a bustling urban scene all within a 2km radius. Windsor is home to Canada’s best distillery at the 2017 and 2018 Canadian Whisky Awards. Wiser’s 35 Year Whisky was named best Canadian whisky of the year for 2018.
The worldwide whisky boom has produced a parallel boom in whisky related tourism and whisky themed experiences. Travel Scotland estimated that Scotch whisky distillers will receive approximately 2 million visitors in 2018, up about 10% from the previous year.
Kentucky Bourbon now pours $8.6 billion each year into the state’s economy, generates more than 20,100 good-paying jobs with an annual payroll topping $1 billion, provides $235 million in local and state tax revenue, and is in the middle of a $2.3 billion building boom.
Average spend per distillery visit in Scotland is about $45. In Ireland, average spend is about $80, while in the US it is around $50. Assuming an average spend of $50, whisky tourism is adding about $250 million a year to distillery’s coffers.
Visitors are actively seeking unique experiences in niche markets. In Windsor, we are providing whisky focused experiences and seeing them thrive. Whisky is elevating tourism and complimenting the award winning wine and beer industries which are already thriving here. By introducing a well developed whisky program into the tourism offerings, it would be significant in helping draw more tourists to the region.
WindsorEats supports the Windsor Works recommendation or focusing on our prohibition/whisky history and would love to be a part of the initiative as we believe we can further leverage it in collaboration with the City of Windsor.
Thank you for your attention,