Sunday, November 9, 2008

Thunder Bay Loses a Tourism Leader

Thunder Bay has lost a prominent tourism leader with the passing of Douglas Wells on November 5, 2008. Doug was an avid traveller and had a lengthy career in both the insurance industry and later, as owner of the Travel Shop in Thunder Bay until 2005 when he sold the business. Doug remained active in both the business he started and with many community groups until the spring of 2008.

Doug was a long serving member of the Fort William Rotary Club, the advisory board of the tourism program at Confederation College and was a fellow Skaleague of mine as a member of the Thunder Bay Chapter of SKAL International. While I only knew Doug personally for the past two years, his sense of humour, wisdom and knowledge of the tourism industry and "tell it like it is" attitude was appreciated by me and everyone else around him, qualities that will be missed.

Doug was predeceased by his wife Lorraine in 2004 and is survived by his three children, four grandchildren, many other relatives and countless friends.

Funeral Services for Doug Wells will be held on Monday November 10th at 11 AM in Wesley United Church in Thunder Bay.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ministry of Tourism Announces the Celebrate Ontario Event Support Program for 2009

Ontario’s festivals and events are a major economic driver for communities across the province.

Celebrate Ontario 2009 is a $9 million program to increase the economic potential of new and existing tourism festivals and events. The program is open to festivals and events taking place in Ontario between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010.

NEW!! This year, the program offers three levels of financial support:

Up to $50,000 for festivals and events with operating budgets of less than $250,000
Up to $100,000 for festivals or events with operating budgets between $250,000 and $1 million annually
Up to $400,000 for festivals or events with operating budgets in excess of $1 million annually.

To apply for funding, applicants are asked to fill out the Celebrate Ontario 2009 application form and review the application guide carefully before submitting.
The deadline for applications is January 16, 2009.
Please note:

Applications must be submitted in person or by mail/courier.
Applications submitted in person must be received by the Ministry of Tourism, 900 Bay Street, 9th Floor Hearst Block, Toronto by 5 p.m. on January 16, 2009.
Mailed or couriered applications must be postmarked no later than January 16, 2009 and sent to the address below.

Applications posted after the deadline unfortunately cannot be accepted.

Investment and Development OfficeOntario Ministry of Tourism900 Bay Street, 9th Floor
Hearst BlockToronto, ON M7A 2E1

For more information on this great program and to access the application guide and forms, visit:

New Skate and BMX Plaza Brings New Sport Tourism Opportunities

On Saturday November 1st, 2008, City of Thunder Bay officials and members of the local skateboarding community joined forces to cut the ribbon and open a spectacular and unique new recreation and sport tourism facility, and right on the shore of Lake Superior no less.

The new Skate board and BMX plaza, located at Prince Arthur's Landing on the shore of Lake Superior, is the first major project completed as part of the city's new waterfront development strategy and aims to make the area a more inviting place for youth and families to enjoy throughout the year.

The park's opening was welcomed by over 500 young -and young at heart-riders, eager to experience this new park, considered one of the finest of its kind in Canada. The fact that it was November 1st made no difference as it was a sunny, 12 degree celcius afternoon. Whether skating, biking or just watching the activities with Lake Superior and Sleeping Giant in the background, this was the place to be in Thunder Bay this weekend. Even as night fell, some 100 riders were enjoying the park by streetlight well into the evening.

Why is this park good for tourism? BMX and Skateboarding competitions are big business in North America and there are pro and semi pro circuits criss crossing the continent. Having a park of this magnatude, including the California Bowl (one of only two kidney shaped in Canada) allows the city to host regional, national and even international amateur and pro competitions in the future. Linked in with the new Toivo St BMX track, the Wake the Giant WakeBoard festival and the Shuniah Mines Mountain Bike, trails, we are poised to capitalize on the City's connection to the outdoors and to these hugely popular sport and recreation opportunities. A single event with 250 out of town particpants could generate up to $500 000 for the local tourism economy.

This park also enhances Thunder Bay's marketing position as a great outdoor city and a hip destination for outdoor experience seeking youth travel markets.

The new facilities are already creating significant buzz in the skate and BMX online world, reaching riders in the local, Winnipeg, US and Toronto markets who are expressing interest in making Thunder Bay a destination for them and their friends. Check out this story and comments by riders from all over the globe to see what I mean.

With a new sport tourism strategy set to be released by the end of 2008, followed by the release of the Premier Ranked Tourism Destination framework, our strategic direction will help support this type of sport infrastructure investments and the tourism related events they can bring.

The Thunder Bay Skeateboard Coalition is helping raise a portion of the capital costs. If you are interested in buying a named brick for $100 to support this great facility, visit This group has been instrumental in the development of the park, working with the city administration throughout the process.

Once the doner wall, landscaping and california bowl are completed in early 2009, the park will have a more officious opening. In the meantime, there's plenty of opportunity to enjoy the challenging experiences it provides. Stay tuned as your's truly will be found at the park in my skate gear as well.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

September Terry Fox Visitor Centre Update

The September Terry Fox Visitor Centre registrations are in and as predicted with respect to the severity of the global economic environment, leisure visitation to the city, visitor registrations have posted a 14% decline over September 2007.

Total Visitor Registrations to the centre were 2635 versus 3085 in September 2007.

Canadian Registrations continue to dominate, accounting for 1836 registrations, down from 1913 in 2007. Canadian travel stands at 70% of toal visitors with the majority being from Ontario
Ontario - 1146
Manitoba - 150
Quebec - 69
BC - 153
Alberta - 178

Both Alberta and British Columbia posted gains in 2008 over 2007.

The United States market, at 682 registrations, is down 15% from September 2007. However, Minnesota posted increases in 2008.

The overseas market registrations were down sharply to 117 in September 2008, from 364 in 2007.

For the entire third quarter of 2008, total Registrations at the Terry Fox Centre were down 19% over the third quarter of 2007.

However, the corporate and sport tourism markets remained steady, with hotel occupancy rates in the city remaining on par with the 2007. A stronger corporate travel market in Q 3, helped by conferences such as SAREX, kept visitation in those segments ahead of 2007 levels. The Ontario Youth Diving and Swimming Championships, held back to back in July 2008 helped create several zero vacancy weekends in Thunder Bay this summer.

Given the challenges facing the leisure travel markets, Tourism Thunder Bay has increased marketing and promotional investment in the corporate and sport tourism markets. We have had an increased presence this year at Incentive Works and other meeting planners forums, and have been focusing on the mining, government, Aboriginal, health sciences and education sectors for hosting conferences in the city.

Thunder Bay Profiled at the 2008 International Eco and Sustainable Tourism Conference

Tourism Thunder Bay has received international recognition for its new tourism marketing direction focused on a strong “Superior By Nature” brand and building awareness of the city as one of Canada’s great outdoor cities to stay, work and play. The City was invited to present its strategy, focused around the hugely popular “Seven Days With the Giant” marketing partnership at the International Eco and Sustainable Tourism Conference held in Vancouver, British Columbia from October 27-29, 2008.

Organized by the International Ecotourism Society based in Washington, D.C, the conference brought together over 400 eco and sustainable tourism experts from around the globe including operators, destination marketers, academics, urban planners and developers to discuss best practices in sustainable tourism development. Tourism Thunder Bay’s presentation, with assistance from the Strategic Tourism Development and Marketing Partnership for Northern Ontario, was titled “Seven Days With The Giant…A Case Study in Promoting Communities Through Parks.”

Being profiled at a conference of this importance is a great accomplishment for Tourism Thunder Bay and the entire community. Building urban experiences around our parks and Lake Superior has raised the profile of the city tremendously and to be recognized by global leaders in sustainable tourism is a sign that we are on the right path with this bold new approach to marketing Thunder Bay. Eco tourism is not just about far off remote wilderness places. It’s about promoting responsible travel that conserves the environment and benefits local economies. That is something every tourism business, urban and outdoor, can build towards in our new global social, environmental and economic climate.

Tourism Thunder Bay is looking forward to continuing this direction and leading the local tourism industry in striving to develop and promote the city’s collective visitor experiences to an increasingly higher environmentally sustainable standard.

For more information on the conference, visit