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Benninger named Experiential Tourism Director at The Bruce

'Bridgerton' experience just one of many Benninger & The Bruce have in store
Nick Benninger is the newly appointed Experiential Tourism Director for The Bruce Hotel.

With a title such as ‘Experiential Tourism Director’, one might think the possibilities are endless. Nick Benninger now holds that distinction at The Bruce Hotel and you might be right in thinking that the possibilities are indeed endless.

Just take a quick look at the hotel’s website under experiences and you’ll see the upcoming ‘Bridgerton’ dinner scheduled for July 7. It not only tells you what to expect at the hotel but sets the tone for style and atmosphere all at the same time. It’s just the first in a long line of things Benninger has in mind to solidify The Bruce even more as Stratford’s must-visit hotel destination.

“Culinary tourism, agricultural tourism and experiential tourism are all on the rise around the world, but Ontario has been a bit behind the rest of the country,” he said. “When you’re in Newfoundland and someone talks to you about the concept of going out deep sea fishing, that’s where you get to touch something and do something, becoming part of where you are and experiencing something culturally important to that area. That’s what we’re doing here.”

Being surrounded by rich agricultural land and a slew of diverse farm offerings, Benninger points out that Stratford is ripe for this kind of tourism. And since The Bruce is so connected to food and food pathways, it seemed like a natural fit to showcase where they source their food from.

“The type of people that come to visit Stratford are coming here for unique cultural experiences, authentic experiences,” he said. “So when our guests come for the Festival Theatre, we’re trying to give them other things to do as well - taking them on farm tours with culinary components interwoven amongst those things. It could be a picnic lunch or fishing or a farm tour with a long-table dinner in the middle of a farm field. These are just some of the wonderful opportunities for us to present an authentic version of Perth County and Stratford.”

Talking about the Bridgerton event, Benninger said it was his wife, Candace, that came up with the idea and the rest of the hotel’s staff enthusiastically got behind it. Given the similarities to many of Stratford’s Shakespearean ties, the concept of dressing up and putting on a funny hat for dinner just seemed to fit what they wanted to do.

“We’re looking at other dinners, like a Farmer’s Feast where we’ll bring together four or five farmers that partner with us on our farm tours and have them here at the hotel to help us put on a feast and help present the meals,” he said. “We think this is going to be really exciting to share with people and give them a reason to come back.”

That Benninger and The Bruce are embracing the agrarian roots of the area as much as they are is positioning them to really show off what’s great about this region. He points to Perth Pork as an example, where hotel guests will get a chance to see how their operation works and provide the quality products for the end result.

“I think stories like that are really unique, getting to see happy hogs in the field,” Benninger said. “Beyond that, there’s all these small market gardens with all their diverse offerings. They have 30 different vegetables growing at the same time, so people get to see what it takes to manage that and the backbreaking work it involves. We’re visiting farms that align with our values and ethos as a business and that really prioritize things like sustainability.”

In showing off their partnerships in different ways, Benninger hopes to put The Bruce in a class by itself.

“When you distill it down, hopefully it becomes something like people think they can just support that farm they visited or the one just like it in their community when they get back home,” he said. “It’s like that analogy I made about going fishing on the East coast - it’s things like this that help us remember what makes us cool and really leaning into it to proudly show it off to folks that visit.”

To find out just what Benninger and The Bruce have planned, visit their website and look under the experiences menu.