Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Travel Media Descends on Thunder Bay

Throughout July Tourism Thunder Bay ( have played host to an unprecedented number of travel journalists through our partnership with Ontario Parks ( and the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (

During the week of July 19th, Tourism Thunder Bay played host to eight writers from three countries travelling in two groups. The theme of both tours was "Four Days With the Giant" and we were able to showcase Thunder Bay's incredible "Superior By Nature" brand of customer service.

One group consisting of Canadian and US freelance journalists arrived in the City on July 19th and were escorted around the community for six days, visiting Sleeping Giant Park, paddling and sailing the harbour and rivers through the city, visiting iconic attractions such as Fort William Historical Park and Kakabeka Falls and enjoying many of Thunder Bay's unique culinary experiences, including the Hoito, Caribou, Good News, Thunder Oak Gouda and others.

The second group was arranged through OTMPC's Japanese office and consisted of four Japanese journalists who specialize in writing about Women's outdoor experiences. This group enjoyed much of the same itinerary that focused on outdoor and cultural experiences combined with urban culture and culinary elements. The Asian travel market, while a small percentage of Thunder Bay visitors, shows tremendous growth potential as the market looks to explore Canada beyond Toronto and Vancouver. It is also a group that stays longer adnd leaves a much greater per person economic impact.

For both tours, Tourism Thunder Bay's Cathy Presenger worked behind the scenes to arrange the local itineraries and provide support to ensure their every need was accommodated while in the community.

The recurring comment made by the writers was the incredible hospitality they received in the city, the abundance of attractions and discoveries, great summer weather, cleanliness of the community and the interest in being present in a community undergoing an exciting economic transition. One group was treated to wine with their Caribou dinner experience, complements of kayaker Maureen Stehman, whom they met on the McIntyre River earlier in the day.

The writers had time to explore on their own and went discovering unique local gems, some of which were unknown to even those of us in the know!

As the articles start emerging in print and online travel journals, we will be posting links on this site.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tourism and Recreation Divisions Ramp up New Sport Tourism Strategy

The City of Thunder Bay's Recreation Division, in co-operation with the Tourism Thunder Bay, is in the process of development of a new Sport Tourism Strategy for the City and has released its draft policy document outlining the City's proposed new sport tourism strategy.

For Tourism Thunder Bay, sport tourism is essential in growing the city's tourism industry. Sport tourism succeeds in attracting small, medium and sized groups of travellers who leave a significant economic impact in the city on everything from hotel rooms to restaurants, car rental agencies and retail and entertanment facilities. Sport travellers are destination experience seekers and will likely travel to a community to compete regardless of external factors such as fuel prices, passport issues, etc.

The proposed new strategy spells out, among other things, better focus on the types of events the community will bid on, provide recommendations on future infrastructure investment, identify new sport tourism opportunities and roll out a new sport tourism marketing budget specifically for pre qualified sport tourism events with a demonstrated business plan and economic impact for the community and region.

The new strategy is expected to be finalized in mid Fall 2008.

For more information regarding the City of Thunder Bay's Sport Tourism efforts, visit To see the proposed draft Sport Tourism Strategy, you can email Paul Burke at for a copy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thunder Bay Outfitter partners with Project Healing Waters

Media Release: - For Immediate Release July 9, 2008

Healing On The Albany – Ready to Go!

On July 12th, seven American and three Canadian soldiers will be the guests of a Canadian adventure travel company, Wilderness North of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada and marks the first time the American non-profit group Project Healing Waters (PHW) will stage an event outside of the U.S. and one that includes non-U.S. soldiers.

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. ( was started at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC by retired Navy Captain Ed Nicholson through partnerships with the Federation of Fly Fishers and The National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The program grew and is now a nationwide program serving vets across the United States and now, Canada. The skills required to fly fish and tie flies have proven to be a valuable tool in the rehabilitation of these heroes who have been wounded from all conflicts that the U.S. and Canada have been involved in.

PHW event coordinator Mark Snyder said the July 12-20 event – Healing on the Albany – is the result of contributions from both sides of the border, both as cash, and in the form of equipment and services. “It all started when Wilderness North owners, Alan and Krista Cheeseman, made their gift of 10 fly in fishing adventure trips to their Miminiska Lodge on the Albany River and includes round trip flights from Thunder Bay, and all food, lodging, boats and motors for the soldiers, a value of over $30,000.” Wilderness North published a story about the soldiers in an e-newsletter sent to their own e-mail subscribers, who in turn responded with over $12,000 dollars in cash.”

Ed Newby of Chicago, a retired airline pilot from American Airlines has donated his private plane and that of friend Bob Buttgen who will fly the U.S. soldiers from Chicago to Thunder Bay on July 11th and back to Chicago on July 20th. American Airlines has donated all flights for the U.S. soldiers to and from Chicago. Inova Federal Credit Union gave $5000 from members and employees, the North Shore Steelhead Association of Thunder Bay is paying a portion of the expenses for the Canadian soldiers, an elementary school in Pittsburg, PA had a fund drive to raise money and Tourism Thunder Bay is coordinating media distribution and sponsoring the shuttle service while they stay in Thunder Bay. Other contributors include RIO Products (Idaho Falls, ID), Cabelas (Sidney, NE), The Fly Fisherman (Clermont, FL), Temple Forks Outfitters (Dallas, TX), Orvis (Manchester, VT), Korkers (Portland, OR) and St. Moritz (Vancouver, BC)

While in Thunder Bay, guests will enjoy a breakfast reception with representatives from the Thunder Bay Military community and tour Fort William Historical Park as guests of Tourism Thunder Bay.

Aboard those big orange Wilderness North de Havilland Otter floatplanes taking off from Thunder Bay on the morning of July 12th will be ten brave men who suffered the injuries of war, now on their way to the peace of the lush green boreal forests of Northwestern Ontario - - a borderless trip made possible by both U.S. and Canadian persons, who through their gifts, say “Thank You” to those who protect our freedoms everyday.

A media opportunity will be held at 11:45 AM, Saturday July 12th, 2008 at the Wilderness North seaplane base, located at 531 Shipyard Drive, Thunder Bay, ON.


Project Healing Waters-Washington D.C.-Mark Snyder
Wilderness North – Thunder Bay, ON – Wayne Blackmon

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tourism Industry Spotlight - Superior Outdoors

To celebrate those that are helping build a strong tourism economy, I'm introducing a new segment that will focus on different tourism related businesses and people.

Superior Outdoors ( magazine got its start in the spring of 2007 with its premier issue to much acclaim within the outdoor community. Local owners Darren and Michelle McChristie have put together a spectacular publication and website dedicated to the silent sports and environmentally sustainable recreational pursuits that the Lake Superior basin offers. They have discovered a unique niche in the editorial marketplace and have become champions for the lake basin and all it has to offer those of us looking to learn more about it.

The publication has grown rapidly in distribution and content and the third issue, released in early June 2008, is on newstands throughout the region and into Southern Ontario outdoor retailers such as Mountain Equipment Co-op stores in the Toronto, Winnipeg and Ottawa markets. Locally, it is available at Chapters and most local outdoor retailers.

Hats off to the McChristies for establishing their business venture and their role in helping to promote the Lake Superior region as a unique destination.

If you have a tourism business or know of a person that wants to be featured, email me at and we'll consider your story for future online editions.

July Tourism News

Stats Showing local Tourism Industry on Par with 2007

With the first half of 2008 behind us, we are starting to paint a picture of how the visitor season will unfold. With the Tourism industry facing a number of unprecedented environmental challenges to contend with across Canada, Thunder Bay's tourism industry appears to be holding steady overall compared to 2007.

A review of a number of key indicators released to date paint a mixed picture and have identified areas of both opportunity and decline.

On the accommodations front, the local sector has faired well and on average, revenue per room has remained consistent with 2007 levels and in some cases slight increases have been shown. This has been largely due to growth in both the corporate (meetings and conventions) and sport tourism activities in the city and points to the successes of the city's enhanced focus on diversified tourism marketing efforts that put greater emphasis on attracting conferences and sporting events. The Mining Symposium and various sport events such as the Ontario Swimming Championships are strong indicators of the city's strategic advantage in hosting large groups.

Web visitation to have shown a 51% increase over the same period of 2007, with visitors exceeding the 242 000 mark, up from 180 000 during the first half of 2007. This shows an increase in awareness about the city and it is being used as a tool to research leisure, sport and corporate travel.

Visitor Registrations at the Terry Fox Centre for the second quarter of 2008 show an approximate 8% decline. Domestic registrations are down approximately 4% with the biggest losses coming from Quebec, BC and Alberta markets. The Ontario market has shown increases of 2% over 2007, consistent with industry expectations that North American travellers would stay closer to home in 2008.

US registration numbers at the centre have shown a 25% decline over 2007 for the second quarter with declines across all major US markets. Overseas markets, while only representing 5% of our market, showed a 23% increase, consistent with national trends towards more European and Asian visitors who are coming to Canada because of the relative bargains and lower fuel prices compared to home markets. While the overseas markets are small, they typically stay longer in the community and have a higher per person per day spending over domestic visitors.

However, Canada Border Services data for the 2nd quarter paints a slightly more optimistic picture. While June US traffic at the Pigion River crossing was down 23%, April and May were on par with 2007 for US travellers entering Canada south of Thundder Bay, resulting in a second quarter decrease of only 12% overall. The second quarter saw 14 832 cars while 2007 saw 16 952 cars. However, the number of occupants within each car (not reported) is the more accurate measurement of visitation.

While we do not capture every single visitor in registrations at the Terry Fox Centre, the sampling represents the majority of those who provide basic information on their point of origin and is used as a barometer for guaging leisure traffic. Visitor retention is another important statistic as visitors who stay longer in the community will leave more of an economic impact, offsetting losses incurred by the number of person visits. U.S. visitors, while numbering less, are typically staying longer, helping to partially offset economic declines.

It is cautious to point out that these numbers are early indicators based on available data at this time. July and August travel numbers will be provide a more accurate picture as these two months represent the height of the leisure travel season. May and June border crossing statistics have not been released to us as of yet and may very well show declines less significant than visitor centre registrations are indicating, in percentage terms. We will endeavour to release data as it becomes available to us.

Motor Coach Industry Ramping Up

This Year's OMCa (Ontario Motorcoach Operators Association) conference painted a picture of an increase in motorcoach activity for 2008 and 2009 and the City recently hosted representatives from a number of Motor Coash and Tour operators who toured the city's main attractions to understand the opportunities that exist here. With rising fuel prices, the motorcoach industry is expecting a rise in travel as it becomes a more affordable option for those seeking to explore the country by road.

A number of cross Canada motorcoach tours are expected in the city over the summer and recently I had the opportunity to dine with 97 Southern Ontario visitors travelling aboard two Great Canadian Coaches from Toronto to Victoria on a tour called "Fabric of Canada" While in the city, they dined at the Fort William Country Club dining room, with the Norwesters providing the perfect backdrop to several presentations on the geology of the city by Ministry of Northern Development and Mines ( Geologist Mark O'Brien and Tim Lukinuk of Amethyst Mine Panorama (

Special Group Visit Coming Up

On July 11th, 13 very special visitors will be coming through Thunder Bay on their way North for a 8 day fly fishing school with Wilderness North ( through their sponsorship of a program called "Healing Waters"

10 U.S. and 3 Canadian Military Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, who have suffered serious physical injuries during the course of their service, will be arriving in Thunder Bay on the evening of July 11th and will be flying north to one of Wilderness North's camps on July 12th to enjoy a relaxing week of world class fly fishing.

American Airlines has donated the flights for the service men to Chicago and a number of retired airline pilots will be flying them to Thunder Bay on their private aircraft to start their adventure. We want to extend a huge Thunder Bay welcome to our friends from across North America who have made enourmous sacrifices in the battle against global terrorism.

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active duty military personnel and veterans through fly fishing and fly tying education and outings. You can click on to learn more about this program or to make a donation.

Upcoming Media Tours

Later this month a number of media familiarization tours will be in the city, including a number of Japanese travel writers and outdoor travel writers from as far a field as Atlanta, Georgia. These itineraies have been brought together in partnership with Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership in support of Seven Days with the Giant.

...and speaking of the Giant, Seven Days with the Giant generated over 25 246 entries during its 3 month run.

BluesFest Weekend Getaway a Success.

This year's TBayTel's Thunder Bay Bluesfest was a great event with perfect weather. Tourism Thunder Bay was a media sponsor of the event and hosted the Bluesfest Weekend Getaway contest in the regional, Winnipeg and Northern Minnesota markets. This year set a new record for entries, with over 700 received. The winners, from Winnipeg, enjoyed Thunder Bay hospitality with Lake Superior Visits ( and enjoyed 2 VIP passes to the Bluesfest with VIP parking privilages at the gate, a sail tour of the harbour and one night aboard 's floating bed and breakfast, two nights at the Days Inn North ( and meals at the Prospector, Lot 66 and Ruby Moon. Around Town

The launch of in mid June has generated over 100 stories, photos and videos to date and we are taking the show on the road this summer around the community. Tourism Thunder Bay staff will be around Summer in the Parks events at Marina Park every Wednesday evening to give out buttons and give people the chance to win a cool tee.

A big thanks goes out to sponsor TBaytel ( and Barry Streib for hosting and Tourism Thunder Bay staff at their booth during this past weekend's Bluesfest to help get the message out.

We have started uploading some select stories and photos to the facebook group and will be utilizing these stories and images in upcoming tourism marketing campaigns into 2009.

Sport Tourism Strategy Update

The Recreation and Culture and Tourism Divisions of the City of Thunder Bay are presently circulating a draft sport tourism policy that will form the foundation for a future of aggressive growth. To view and comment upon the proposed policy, contact Paul Burke at We are hoping to have the final policy approved by Council in the fall of 2008.