Martin helped put Highlands on the map

0
27

Barrie Martin says people laugh when he tells them he’s retiring.

The Yours Outdoors founder, who has his fingers in several tourism and community pies, understands the response.

It would never be a full stop,” he concedes, sipping coffee in the living room of his Haliburton County home.

However, “I’m ready to make a change,” he adds. “And I’ve got the ideal circumstances.”

Those conditions have come about because of a decision in 2020 to partner with Haliburton Forest. Martin founded Yours Outdoors in 2006, a business that’s grown exponentially to feature events and experiences in every corner of the Haliburton Highlands. Martin excels in creating connections, highlighting the beauty and wonder of the area, and offering off-thebeaten-path experiences.

He was named Tourism Champion of the Year in 2016 and received the Sustainable Tourism Award in 2017 from the Ontario Tourism Industry Association.

Prior to Yours Outdoors, he had a 28-year career with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. He said he had a pension safety net from the ministry, which allowed him to take the leap of faith with Yours Outdoors. He knew the revenue would not make it worthwhile for someone without other income to take it over – which is how the partnership with the Forest came about.

While not in any big hurry to retire three years ago, it made for a perfect succession plan. There was a retirement party for Martin June 25 at the Forest.

When he says he won’t fully stop, Martin references a number of other things that he is involved in, such as the Haliburton County Community Co-operative and the Haliburton County Folk Society. Other organizations are already approaching him about joining boards of directors. However, the plan is to take a break first, to spend time with family and travel.

He said it is a bit strange looking at a much lighter calendar for the month of July and beyond. He jokes the early days of COVID were probably a good training ground because he wasn’t going anywhere or doing anything.

He’ll miss the Yours Outdoors work. He said it allowed him to be creative in building unique experiences for visitors to the Highlands.

“When you look at what this community offers in terms of landscapes, and amazing people doing amazing things, it’s very much experience-rich. There’s a certain dynamic to this community.”

Martin said he is proud he was one of very few companies across Ontario and Canada offering “truly community-based and sustainable tourism. That’s something the tourism industry is trying to foster. My company’s always referenced as an example.”

He added his greatest satisfaction is seeing happy customers. There have been many over the years as he has ridden shotgun to birthday parties, and marriage proposals. “And the relationships I’ve built with the guides and experience leaders and the providers.”

He’s introduced a lot of international travel agents, and, in turn, international travellers to the Highlands. He said they see our playground with a fresh set of eyes, and it never fails to make him appreciate where he lives.

He’s introduced a lot of international travel agents, and, in turn, international travellers to the Highlands. He said they see our playground with a fresh set of eyes, and it never fails to make him appreciate where he lives.

“It’s really all about community and how that’s inspired me, and I hope I’ve made a contribution. Meeting so many people, and developing those working relationships and friendships, I think I’ve helped put Haliburton Highlands on the map. There’s some unique experiences here that people appreciate.”