By Jennifer Bowman
Courtesy of Rural Hastings Advocate 
Hastings County is hoping it will become known as the next Sedona, Arizona.
Sedona is a well-known tourist destination, attracting four million tourists each year. It has many wellness businesses and is known for the red sandstone rocks, as well as its recreation, resort, and art centers. Some call it a spiritual Mecca.
One of the ways Hastings County plans to achieve this goal this is by marketing the county as a wellness destination.
The county, the second largest in Ontario, already has many wellness businesses such as chiropractors, hypnotherapists, Reiki masters, and retreats, as well as those who sell organic products and beeswax candles.
Andrew Redden, economic developer of Hastings County, said they are hoping to create a network for these businesses to connect.
It will help with tourism, he said. Then once it’s known as a destination, new businesses may come in which will create new jobs. The goal is to put money in people’s pockets and make it a destination people want to come to, he said.
“We keep talking about Hastings being the next Sedona, Arizona, and nobody else is doing this,” he said.
Janice Chrysler, a certified hypnotist and chair of the Wellness Destination committee, said Hastings County is the first wellness destination on this scale in Ontario.
Chrysler said there are similar associations in B.C. and the Yukon that are very strong, but it’s the first project of its kind in this area.
“A lot of other counties and things in the province are watching to see how ours works. We’re kind of setting the standard here.”
Chrysler said she was spending much of her time trying to find places to hold seminars and retreats. In fact, that’s the reason she agreed to chair the committee.
“When you’re a sole proprietor, you wear many hats, and you don’t want your whole time being taken up just trying to find all these things. You want to actually be helping people,” she said.
Chrysler said the alternative health community is already a very helpful community that easily refers clients to each other. Building a connection as a wellness destination will make it much easier.
They are currently receiving funding from Hastings County, but Chrysler said they plan to become their own association so government cuts won’t affect them as directly.
The planning has been going on for over a year. Chrysler said there are lots of services in the county, and now the time is right to bring them together.
“It’s like everybody’s been sitting there waiting for someone to make that move,” she said.
The planning is just in its starting stages. They’ve just had their first meeting and still need three members to complete their committee, but those involved are enthusiastic.
“If Sedona can do it, so can we. We have rocks and water and trees too,” Chrysler said.