Melissa Marquardt is an Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) board member who has stood the test of time. Melissa was not only one of the first directors for the OHTO board and served three full terms, but after taking a short break she is back again.

One might wonder what keeps bringing Melissa back to this role with OHTO? The answer is: Lots.

“I’m very passionate about tourism and passionate about promoting Ontario’s Highlands as a place to play, live and work,” explained Melissa. “Being around a table of like-minded individuals who want to see the success of our operators and communities is very exciting and something I want to be a part of.”

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Melissa is someone who lives and breathes tourism. As the Tourism Development Officer for the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association for the past 15 years, tourism is Melissa’s focus professionally, but she also lives and is part of the community in an area renowned for its tourism offerings.

From whitewater to camping, food and drink, and more, the Ottawa Valley is a tourism centrepiece, which gives Melissa plenty of inspiration for her professional and personal life. The best part about tourism, from her perspective, is that it’s always evolving and changing, which keeps it exciting.

Her position on OHTO’s board has given her the tools to use in her day job, but it’s also inspired conversation and thinking on bigger-picture ideas relating to tourism and how they can apply in her region.

“In tourism, we tend to be in a reactionary state, and it’s nice to be in a proactive state and thinking about the future and where want to go and who we want to be,” said Melissa. “Those are the bigger picture conversations we have at the OHTO table.”

This term in her role with the OHTO board, Melissa is taking on the role of Chief Governing Officer (CGO). In essence, this means that Melissa will serve as the chair of the board, but it’s also much more than that.

“It’s ensuring we have an ear to the ground for industry needs, wants, and wishes, while also ensuring we have the finances, skill sets, and resources to meet those needs,” said Melissa.

From a CGO perspective, the focus for OHTO moving forward is to continue down the journey of responsible tourism and the impact that will inevitably have on the region. The board will be addressing issues like sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion and what that looks like from a tourism perspective.


While Melissa is excited about her next term on the OHTO board and particularly in her role as CGO, she’s also looking forward to welcoming new board members to the table and inviting new perspectives for the conversations about sustainable tourism and what tourism will look like in the future in Ontario’s Highlands.

“If anyone has an interest in tourism and wants to have a stake in the future of Ontario’s Highlands, then I would suggest they consider joining the board. It’s not an onerous time commitment and the conversations we have are important.”

Joining the OHTO Board

OHTO is currently seeking new board members to join the team and make changes in the tourism world in Ontario’s Highlands. Anyone who is passionate about tourism and can dedicate a few hours each month, please consider submitting an application. For more information about how to apply and to read more about current board members’ thoughts on what being a board member means to them, please click here.