July tourism statistics just released for the city of Thunder Bay are painting a mixed picture that overall, point to the city faring remarkably well given the overwhelming challenges facing the tourism industry in 2008 across North America.
While visitor centre registrations have declined approximately 24% over July 2007, they are in line with 2006's July statistics, with 6671 visitors registering at both centres, down from 9189 in July 2007. For the year to date, Visitor centre registrations are down 14%. Changes this year saw the Terry Fox centre close an hour earlier than in previous years and the Pagoda hours and days of operation extended to provide an enhanced downtown presence. These hours contribute to an approximate loss of 320-600 registrations at Terry Fox during July.
However, Website visitation is up 31% over year to date 2007, with 277 000 visitors using the VisitThunderBay.com website to plan their trips. With respect to the Visitor Experience Magazine, Tourism Thunder Bay's new iconic print fulfillment guide, an additional 20 000 print copies were produced and the distribution levels have increased by over 30% over this time last year. The populatity of the guide has translated into them moving into visitor's hands faster than previous years as indicated by the refill rates of the more than 250 racks around the city and region. The online version of the guide has also generated over 28 000 downloads.
The declining use of the visitor centres this season is not a cause for concern when coupled with the significant increase in use of the City's travel website and visitor guide and points to the fact that visitors are using these comprehensive online ad print tools in place of the visitor centers. The visitor center also caters almost entirely to the leisure market and does not generally attract corporate or sport tourism visitors, segments that have remains strong this year.
Industry performance remains relatively steady compared to 2007 with the accommodation sector reporting revenue per room comparable to 2007 and in some cases performing above the previous year. Major attractions are also reporting relatively steady traffic, comparable to 2007 with at least one attraction reporting an increase, due largely to a resurgence in motorcoach traffic, a market that has almost doubled in size for the city in the past year for many tourism partners.
Given the challenges facing the industry, the city is faring well, in large part due to the diversification of the tourism marketing strategy that has put greater emphasis on sport, corporate and group travel over previous year, a strategy that appears to be paying off for many local tourism industry partners.