Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Mobile marketing is a rapidly expanding tool in reaching consumers.  Its moving so fast, a lot of businesses and organizations haven't had a chance to grasp this tool, let alone keep up with the changes. Is your business planning or ready for this phenomenon?

While only 12 to 14% of visitors are using mobile apps to look at our websites in the northwest, the number is growing with the increasing popularity of smartphones demonstrated by performance such as the phenomenal release of the new IPhone 5. By 2015 it is predicted half of all Internet traffic is going to be over a mobile platform,

The Northwest Innovation Centre, in collaboration with Tourism Thunder Bay, is hosting a one day workshop to help our tourism industry understand the power and potential of mobile marketing opportunities that exist.

Rob Woodbridge of is going to present why it is imperative your business start thinking about engaging its customer base via a mobile platform and an introduction to the power of mobile and pervasive computing along with its impact on your sales, marketing, and customer service teams. Not sure where to start with mobile and don’t have the budget? Rob will introduce low-cost and no cost opportunities that exist for start-ups and small businesses in the mobile space as well as a futuristic view of what mobile marketing will look like in the next 24 months.
Date: Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Cost: Innovator Members $20, General Rate $25 (includes lunch and HST)

Time: 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Location: Victoria Inn, Regency A

For 20 years Rob has been immersed in the middle of the technology and mobile revolution in roles ranging from strategic advisor, board member and coach to VP Operations and President & CEO. In each of the companies that he's been involved with, Rob has helped shape strategy, marketing initiatives and product development to extend existing business into the mobile world — or flat out create new businesses leveraging mobile and pervasive computing.
Rob's experience is as diverse as the mobile industry — from a mobile game company targeting consumers to a mobile IT solution targeting enterprises to a video podcast focused on understanding the ins and outs of developing, marketing and selling mobile applications (found at

You can register online here.  Space is limited and its filling up fast.  

As Tourism Thunder Bay continues to build new regional tourism networks within the new RTO model, we'll be working to bring a continual series of digital educational tools to our industry partners.  If there is something you want to learn more about to help your tourism business grow, drop me a line @ and let me know.        

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Fall has always been a challenging season for us to market leisure experiences. 

With a limited marketing budget, we've generally focused on spring and summer leisure as best best seasons where our visitor experiences are at their peak, with fall through to spring being more focused on our convention and sport tourism segments.

However, with the advent of the regional tourism funding model, we've been able to explore new shoulder season markets through innovative (if not sometimes unorthadox) partnerships.  Warmer autumns, an increase in our inventory of fall visitor experiences, changing consumer trends and cost effective transportation all play a factor to allow us to extend our strong leisure marketing season to build new traffic or at the very least, build brand awareness for subsequent programs

This fall sees the launch of two new partnership marketing programs targeting different markets and demographics but both intended to begin building traction for future initiatives.  The First is Ride Northwest Ontario, a Northwest Ontario motorcycle touring campaign targeting the Manitoba motorcycle segment.  We have traditionally done a less than stellar job of attracting Manitobans by ignoring the market potential that this one million plus consumer market to the west posesses.  This program, a collaboration of communities across the Northwest aims to take advantage of the warm weather fall predictions, fall colours and a avid segment not quite ready to put their bikes away for the season.  A multi media campaign targeting Winnipeg daily print, radio and web, combined by editorial support drives to, a landing page that outlines the benefits of riding the region's curvy highways, spectacular fall colours and scenery unlike the prairies.  Riders are encouraged to stop by the Kenora Discovery Centre (a absolutely spectacular must stop interpretive centre recently opened by the City of Kenora) and pick up their regional ride map.  The landing page and map encourages them to explore the fall attractions and links them to and as well.

The second campaign targets both the GTA and Chicagoland markets in partnership with Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie, OTMPC and Porter Airlines, focusing on fall weekend getaway packages. The landing page offers consumers a chance to book select two night getaway packages int he three cities and book their porter airfare with a special twenty percent discount.  This program leads with a short intense campaign featuring daily print, web and radio tactical in these two markets. While we expect only modest actual uptake, its developed to build our brand awareness in these markets, test new fall product offerings and push the envelope a bit.  Our Thunder Bay focus in this program is targeting fall hikes and exploration of our parks and protected areas, woven into our urban cultural and culinary tapestry of the north shore of Superior.  We'll be measuring click through rates, uptake on the booking codes and actual bookings to measure both consumer interest in the offer as well as the ever important conversion rate to actual bookings.  With the expected release of our own online booking engine sometime in early 2013, this program should have more traction in the future depending on the consumer interest displayed early on.

Both of these programs are seeing significant financial support from the Northern Partnerships office of the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partership Corporation to the tune of one hundred and seventy thousand dollars with the balance of one hundred and twenty five thousand from the various Northern RTOs and municipalities.  For us, a municipal contribution of twelve and a half thousand dollars is very well leveraged.

Right now, we're feverishly working on a regional winter campaign, another season where we've lacked marketing bite and where new visitor experiences are coming on line to make approaching new markets cost effective within the new partnership models.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Delta Announces Thunder Bay Hotel and Conference Centre Development

Delta CEO Ken Greene Admires the Architectural rendering of the new
Delta Thunder Bay opening in 2014.
 Today was a great day for tourism investment in Thunder Bay and a much anticipated next step in connecting visitors to our spectacular waterfront.  Delta Hotels has officially announced that they will be managing and operating the Delta Thunder Bay Hotel and Conference Centre to be located at Prince Arthur's Landing.

The addition of a new 4-star upscale property in Thunder is good news for a hospitality sector that has seen steady year over year growth since 2010 and is poised to continue expanding as the city's economy continues to grow with the growth of the health sciences, mining, transportation and tourism sectors.  With our occupancy rate just shy of 74% in 2011, it remained one of Canada's highest rates and demand this year continues to be strong.

The Delta property will feature one hundred and fifty rooms including eighteen penthouse suites, pool, fitness centre, and nine thousand square feet of meeting space including a five thousand square foot ball room.  The project is being managed and operated by Delta in collaboration with building owner Resolve Group.  The building design is by Brook Mcilroy and will be built by Manshield Construction of Thunder Bay.

It was encouraging to see such a great turn out for the media event this morning as well, with members of the local business community including those from other local hotel properties in attendance to see the renderings and meet Delta officials.  The Delta name has strong brand recognition across Canada and from a brand alignment perspective, strong brands in our market enhances our community's overall tourism reputation that will bring benefits beyond the branded properties.  In a market where we continuously see interest from event organizers to host lager corporate and sport events, more room and meeting space inventory and a culture of hotels working with each other is essential to expanding our community's tourism economic footprint. 

In addition to the obvious benefits, bringing an average of one hundred and fifty to two hundred visitors downtown overnight is critical to downtown revitalization, increases our community's tax assessment revenues and creates direct and ancillary employment opportunities.  Its an investment that has merits well beyond tourism.

In reading the media release issued by Delta Hotels this morning, its clear Delta understands the value of the location and the importance of our natural environment as our major tourism asset.  Referencing Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, the proposed Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area and easy access to wilderness experiences, Delta understands how to make the important connection between urban amenities and the outdoor experiences and compliments our tourism strategy that positions Thunder Bay as Canada's premier outdoor city.  Weaving the urban and outdoor experiences together cvan be challenging but Thunder Bay is becoming well known in sustainable tourism circles for being able to successfully undertake this approach. Our natural environment is a backdrop to hosting unconventional conventions that get delegates out of windowless meeting rooms and gives leisure visitors the opportunity to marvel at our world class waterfront, take in a sailing of fishing charter just meters from their hotel and experience the growing culinary and cultural scene in the Waterfront District.

You can read the Delta release here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

U.S. Visitor Traffic to Thunder Bay on the Increase This Year

It is a pretty significant fact that we are a forty five minute drive from the U.S. border and a source market in excess of three hundred and thirty million people.  Despite conditions of the past decade, the U.S. market continues to be important to us.  However, this market has declined over the past decade in a world of security and economic issues, coupled with inconsistent marketing investments to keep our region top of mind.

In light of the slow US economy, passport requirements, border security, high fuel prices and an at par currency, you'll have to understand if we're a little giddy today in the Tourism Thunder Bay office.

The second quarter border crossing statistics came in this week and to the end of June 2012, U.S. visitors to Thunder Bay through the Pigeon River border crossing have increased by 3.5% or about 1068 persons.  While not explosive year over year growth, its slow and steady as the old tortoise versus hare fable goes, and that's what wins the race. 

While same day traffic declined, it was the important overnight visits that increased, improving hotel performance in what is already a strong urban market.  These longer stays translate into increased economic impacts for our community and region and speak to a desire for avid travellers to explore in greater depth. From an economic impact perspective, this translates to approximately $370 596 in new visitor spending and a total economic impact including the multiplier effect of about $592 953.  Overall, that's a pretty good return early on even before the critically important July and August travel data is reported.  By about late October, we'll have a good sense of the true impact of the new investments being made. 

With approximately $1.1 million in new regional tourism marketing investments being made across Northwestern Ontario in the fishing, hunting, broad outdoors, convention, sports tourism and motor touring segments, its encouraging to see some early wins.  From our early indicators, the majority of this upswing is related to touring and outdoor adventure segment campaigns specifically into the United States totalling approximately $275 000.  This included the popular "Ride Lake Superior" motorcycle program, enhanced broad outdoor campaigns targeting Minnesota and Wisconsin and wider reaching US avid outdoor media channels.  We've also been able to host far more media familiarization trips, and build new relationships with US media such as Northern Wilds, Lake Superior Magazine and AAA media channels to grow interest in the area.  Tying the natural environment to the highway corridors is critical to maximizing visitor attraction.  Most travellers are outdoor enthusiasts but very few want to really rough it.  trails and waterfalls, birding, beaches and so forth are all huge draws but visitors want a good meal and comfy bed too.  communicating the epic-ness of Lake Superior - and our hundreds of thousands of other lakes too - will be critical to growing our markets.

The majority of the Northwest's angling traffic flows through Fort Frances so we'll be watching those numbers closely as well and reporting on the broader impacts.

The regional approach to partnership building is critical to continuing to build on these early successes and together with partners like Sunset Country Travel Association, Algoma Kinnewabi Travel and our friends in Northern Minnesota, we'll continue to work together to make the visitor pie bigger for everyone by focusing on epic experiences worth the distance. 

After all, how far would you travel for the perfect outdoor vacation?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Airlane Hotel Unveils New Name and Look

The former Travelodge Hotel Airlane premieres its new name as the Airlane Hotel & Conference Centre on September 1st, 2012. Under the management of Crescent Hotels & Resorts Canada, it has completed a $1.1 million renovation. All are invited to its Open House, held on Tuesday, September 18th from 1pm-5pm.

The Airlane Hotel & Conference Centre will continue to have a strong commitment to providing guest satisfaction, operating with the same dedicated staff in which it has built its strong history and reputation. The property will continue to be managed by Crescent Hotels & Resorts Canada. Open since 1964, the hotel and the hotel staff continue to live by their motto, “A guest when you enter… A friend when you leave.” The current and ongoing renovations will offer guests, some who have been with the hotel for over 35 years, an even more exceptional experience. New additions include:

• Beds and bedding in guest rooms

• Carpet in guest rooms, corridors, and lobby

• Flat screen televisions

• Refrigerators

• Lobby furniture and lighting

• Artwork and draperies throughout hotel

The Airlane Hotel & Conference Centre serves as a regional hub for Northwestern Ontario and is conveniently located at the junction of Arthur Street and Highway 61, just moments away from the Thunder Bay International Airport. There are many places to visit while staying at the Airlane Hotel & Conference Centre, including Fort William Historical Park, Kakabeka Falls, Thunder Bay Museum, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Magnus Theatre, OLG Casino, and the new Arthur’s Landing Waterfront.

With over 10,000 square feet of banquet space, the hotel prides itself on their cuisine and flexible catering, meeting and event services, suitable for any type of corporate or social gathering. The hotel is a leader in in-flight catering, off-site catering, and dining at the hotel restaurant, River Rock Bar and Grill, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Hotel employees have been long-time supporters of multiple organizations and local endeavors within the community, including the United Way Employee Campaign and the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital Foundation, whose cabinet includes General Manager Susan Cameron. Currently and throughout the renovation process, the hotel has placed a priority on promoting sustainability and efforts to go Green by donating mattresses, televisions, linens and furniture to Habitat for Humanity and other organizations. In honor of their Green efforts, the hotel has been nominated by Thunder Bay for the city’s prestigious Green Award.

All visitors are encouraged to enjoy a Breath of Fresh Airlane at the Airlane Hotel & Conference Centre’s Open House, Tuesday, September 18th from 1pm-5pm. This event is open to the general public and visitors will have an opportunity to explore all of the exciting new renovations.

About Crescent Hotels & Resorts Canada

Crescent Hotels & Resorts Canada, a Top 10 independent North American Management Company and division of Crescent Hotels & Resorts, owns, manages, and co-invests in hotel real estate. Headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, the company currently owns or operates 11 hotels in Canada within Crescent’s North American portfolio of 64 hotels and resorts, aggregating 13,000+ guest rooms. As one of the few management companies approved to operate hotels under the premier hotel brands of Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, Hyatt, Wyndham Worldwide, and InterContinental brands, the company’s distinguished portfolio encompasses properties in the luxury, resort, upper upscale full-service, boutique, convention, and premium select-service hotels and limited service segments. Additional information about Crescent Hotels & Resorts Canada may be found on the company’s website:

Saturday, July 14, 2012


This past week, the Thunder Bay International Airport Authority announced that United Airlines will begin daily direct service from Chicago's O Hare Airport to Thunder Bay beginning February 14, 2013.

This is great news for our tourism industry on a lot of different levels and the teams at the Thunder Bay International Airport Authority and United each deserve a huge applause for working diligently towards bringing this service to the city and region.

As many know, I'm a big advocate of brand alignment in advancing our community's tourism reputation and that can successfully occur on both passive and active levels.  United has a global presence, strong brand recognition and an extensive network of cities served.  Chicago's O Hare is one of the world's busiest airports and located itself in a major catchment area of some 8.5 million consumers.  The connectivity to this market through United raises our reputation as a "go to" destination.  As news of the new service was circulating this week, I've had discussions with provincial tourism colleagues and consumers from across North America commenting to me how positive this news is and how this development reflects positively on the community.

Chicago has long been a major source market for the region's angling and hunting experiences and its massive population coupled with its weathering of the recent US economic downturn has made it an attractive market to pursue.  Our industry made huge marketing cuts in the wake of the events of 2001 and this market, regrettable, lost a lot of market penetration.  New regional tourism investments has allowed the industry to capture some of that market back.  United offers a quicker way to get here fromt he U.S. markets, saving anglers, hunters, kayakers, canoeists, campers and hikers a  minimum10 hour drive in each direction.

The air connectivity allows our angling and broad outdoor industry to reach out to a broader market of avid enthusiasts willing to travel a longer distance for that epic experience.  Thunder Bay is a hub to Lake Superior water adventures, stunning scenic coastal touring, accessible wildlife viewing and hundreds of thousands of angling lakes served by hundred of angling resorts.  These experiences are what we do best and there is a market further afield than the 8 hour drive radius who put a value on these experiences.  United opens us up to the entire United States market and beyond, allowing our experience focused campaigns to target avid consumers more precisely.

Better air connectivity helps us reach them and our city can improve its role as a hub providing accommodation, rental vehicles, supplies and culinary experiences to these visitors before they head out into the region.

United's arrival in the city will be a convenience for local and regional travellers heading south. Thunder Bay's accommodation and culinary industries will benefit from this outbound market as much as for the inbound traveller.  Given that we're the hub for a regional catchment area of some 40 000 residents and a lot of them seek sun destinations, we can expect some increases in winter leisure traffic through our community as a result, perhaps as many as an additional 2000 to 4000 room nights annually

United begins daily service on February 14, 2013 arriving at 8:40 PM utilizing 50 seat CRJ200 jets.  The inaugural departure will be at 6 AM, February 15th and continue daily on that schedule.

Welcome United.  We look forward to working with you!

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Out on the Big Water with Northern Wilds crew aboard's Frodo.  Clockwise rom left are Kate Watson, Shawn Perich, Captain Gregory Herioux, Amber Pratt and Paul Pepe.  Jim Boyd is behind the lens.
 This year is shaping up to be another amazing year for travel media interested in our area.  These journaists have discovered us through a numnber of sources and tourism partners and we've connected with them to create unique itineraries that they'll showcase in web, print and television.
As of today, we're up to twenty journalists covering everything from motorcycle touring to sailing the Big Water, kayaking, the growing local music culture and our culinary diversity.

Travel media is such a critical part of our marketing strategy and is becoming increasingly a larger element within our operating budget.  attracting journaists through any number of Canadian and US travel media showcases such as Canada Media Market Place or Go Media to name but a few.  We also get a lot of travel media inquiries from our friends at OTMPC and even other tourism marketing organizations such as Algoma Kinnewabi Travel Association. Travel media tells stories in more detail and authenticity than an advertisement does and often ends up costing less.  We typically cover their expenses while here and many of our partners featured offer discounts and complimentary admissions in exchange for the publicity they receive.  In 2011, we welcomed twenty two journalists and we received over $7325 000 in earned media value (determined by what we'd have to pay for the equivilant print, web or television space.)

A few weeks back we hosted four Minnesota based journalists writing for Northern Wilds but also representing interests beyond the popular Northern Lake Superior lifestyle.  Today I had a chance to see the first two digital outcomes of the 4 whirwind days they spent, not only in Thunder Bay but up as far as as Terrace Bay and Rossport, really giving our coastal region a lot of attention.  In fact, we want to welcome them back later this year to see even more of the region.

You can read the identical articles either at North Shore Community Radio's website or at's site.

While the group was in Thunder Bay, The Tourism Division had a great time playing host as a couple of them weren't that familiar with the area.  Shawn Perich, Editor of Northern Wilds, along with staff writer Amber Pratt, North House Folk School Marketing Coordinator Kate Watson and freelancer Jim Boyd absorbed a lot of different experiences while in the area and really loved the food culture, the waterfront redevelopments and our urban connection to our natural environment.  For me, the most important element of the familiarization tour was getting to stregthen our tourism relationships and freiendships with folks across the border.  Lake Superior and the highway corridor around it is our single largest tourism asset and it takes all of us working together across three states, one province and two countries to grow the industry in any meaningful way.

Of course, it wouldn't have been made possible without the assistance of over sixteen other local and regional tourism partners who took time to show them around their attractions and respective communities.

Tomorrow is another day and we're welcoming a California based travel culture journalist , followed on Monday by a Vancouver based blogger, a crew from Inside Motorcycle and MAV TV...and this is all before the Bluesfest weekend!  We have another twelve booked in for the balance of July and August.

If you see a film crew or photo journalist around the city this summer, take a second to welcome them.  They'll love it!