People who visit your community for the first time can offer fresh perspectives and unique insights about your services, transportation, accommodations and tourist attractions. Through the First Impressions Community Exchange program, you can tap in to these insights.

By taking part in this program, you pair up with another community and see what kinds of first impressions your community makes when people visit for the first time.

What you learn can help you find ways to better attract tourist, residents and investors.

How it works

1. Contact your regional advisor to apply

Your regional advisor will ask you questions to see if you’re ready to participate.

2. Build a team

To organize the visit to your partner community, you’ll need a team with money and resources.

Your team must have:

  • an organization that leads the project (e.g., economic development organization, business improvement area, chamber of commerce)
  • a project coordinator
  • a budget of at least $500 to run the project

You’ll work with your team to plan the visit and develop key documents, such as the itinerary, surveys and maps. We’ll give you advice, a step-by-step guide and sample documents.

3. Find a partner community

Once you get approval, we’ll match you with a community that’s within 100 to 200 kilometres from yours, and has similar characteristics such as:

  • size
  • distance to a major population centre
  • population and demographics (e.g., number of school-aged children, seniors)
  • tourist attractions

4. Plan your exchange

After you’re paired with a community, you’ll decide:

  • what to evaluate during the visit (e.g., health and community services)
  • the structure of the visit (e.g., one-day visit or two half-days)
  • when to visit each other and report back (you can’t tell each other the date of the visit but you can agree on the time of year (e.g., summer, winter)

5. Recruit volunteers

You’ll need to recruit four to eight volunteers, depending on the size of the community you’ll visit. We help out by training the volunteers.

Your volunteers will:

  • travel to your partner community to anonymously make observations
  • follow the instructions in your itinerary
  • record their feedback in a survey during the visit

Remember that you’ll need to cover your volunteers’ costs for travel, accommodations and meals.

6. Complete the exchange

The exchange visits are where volunteer teams visit their exchange community and note observations in order to prepare a report back.

7. Share reports and take action

After the visit, you and your exchange partner will present your observations to each other.

You can then create an action plan based on what you learned in your partner’s report.

What to evaluate

You can evaluate your community in three ways. Each option takes at least one day to complete, and costs at least $500 to implement.

  1. Evaluate your full community and get insights about:
    • services that make your community visitor-friendly (access to transportation, information centres, signage, location of attractions)
    • physical spaces (historic sites, buildings and entrances)
    • community services (housing, education, jobs, health)
    • businesses, retail stores and restaurants
    • natural areas (parks, cycling and walking paths)
  2. Evaluate how you serve visitors and get insights about:
    • what makes your community visitor-friendly (access to transportation, information centres, signage, location of attractions)
    • tourist attractions (landmarks, events)
    • natural areas (parks, cycling and walking paths)
  3. Evaluate your downtown area and get insights about:
    • the look and feel of downtown areas
    • businesses, retail stores and restaurants
    • entertainment (events, festivals, arts and culture activities)

Who can apply

You can participate if you work for:

  • a community and neighbourhood organization
  • a municipal, county or regional government organization
  • a chamber of commerce
  • a business improvement association
  • a tourism association
  • a community futures development corporation


This manual provides a step-by-step guide and the resources to assist a coordinator with the completion of the tasks associated with each of the four stages in the FICE process. Fill out this form to get a copy of the FICE coordinator’s manual.

Contact us

To access the FICE resources, please contact the Agricultural information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300, or at ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca.