Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas From Tourism Thunder Bay

On behalf of my team at Tourism Thunder Bay, Rose Marie, Cathy, Rosemarie, Jennifer, Erin, and myself, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and best of the new year.

This is a time for most of us in the industry to step back, take a breath and remember what's truly important to us all. Good friends and family, health and happiness. Its a chance to laugh a little more and not take things in life too seriously.
Its been an honour and privilege for all of us to work with the local and regional tourism industry this year and we've appreciated all of the support, participation in our programs and positive working relationships we've fostered over the year. We're looking forward to a busy and productive 2010 and the new partnerships we'll build into the future.

Here's looking to many more sunrises.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ministry of Tourism Announces New Tourism Regions

The Ministry of Tourism has released the thirteen new travel regions, the need for which was identified within the Ontario Tourism Strategy (Sorbera Report to many). I have to say that I am pretty pleased with this decision and this is something we can work well with to strengthen our community and regional approach to growing the tourism opportunities. We've provide input to this back in April and have been communicating this message to our Ministry partners throughout the summer and fall of 2009.

Northern Ontario is labeled as area thirteen with three sub regions identified - north west, north central and north east.

This definition of these new regions makes a lot of sense as it bases the decisions more on the travel patterns and commonality of experiences rather than on traditional political boundaries. As I said previously, consumers don't care out the lines that define a travel region. They want to catch big fish, see big wildlife, kayak, attend a conference or a sporting events. In short, they want the experience first, and the destination second.

I've always fgelt that we've had far too many individual tourism marketing associations in the Province - hundreds in fact. These often duplicate each others efforts and absorb much needed marketing and product development funding on administration. Large cities like ours, typically have a much more diversified segment that includes conventions, sport tourism and major attractions and we will continue to play a role a strong urban leaders for our communities. However, on the leisure and corporate retreat, travel media and group travel, we play a powerful role as gateways but need to rely on region to supply the end experience or product. The more regional partners we have access to, the more experiences we can market and the more people will consider using Thunder Bay as the hub to reach them. Everybody wins.

For Thunder Bay, being a gateway city to a larger travel region defined by common experiences will only strengthen our reputation as one of Canada's best outdoor cities. This offers opportunities to build new partnerships and relationships as far as the Manitoba border around resource based outdoor experiences and road touring routes that use Thunder Bay as a road, sea and air hub. This has the very real potential to increase opportunities in our outdoor retail and supply segment, hotels, car rental agencies, restaurants, grocers and others who see the value in working together to further enhance our reputation.

This is also an opportunity to reach out to hundreds of new potential partners in the broader region and work with them to encourage their clients to use Thunder Bay as a gateway city. They can encourage them to stop in the city for a nights rent, a round of golf, equipment purchase and rental and other services to round out their vacation experience.

There is still a lot of work to do to formalize these regions and define our new working partnerships but the opportunities to work together are certainly exciting and worth working towards to find common ground on marketing, product development and enhanced communication to ensure we are able to reach potential new visitors better than we have in the past. Now is the time to think outside of the box.

for more information, visit

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Online Registration Now Available for the 2010 Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with the Giant

Great news for running junkies everywhere and for our local tourism partners looking to boost business during the September travel month.

The Board of Directors of the Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with the
Giant are pleased to announce that registration for the event on September 19, 2010 is
now open. Individuals can register their participation in the marathon, half-marathon or 5K
races at

Registration costs start at $85 for the marathon, $65 for the half-marathon, and $35 for
the 5K. “We are extremely pleased to begin accepting registrations for the 2010 Miles
with the Giant events,” says Barry Streib, President. “We are starting to feel the buzz of
excitement within the community and we hope that enthusiasm continues to grow as we
work towards race weekend.”

To add to the excitement, organizers are pleased to confirm that running legend, Dick
Beardsley, will be attending the inaugural event. Beardsley is best known for his incredible
race in the 1982 Boston Marathon. That race, on a very hot day, was dubbed the “Duel in
the Sun” as he battled world record holder Alberto Salazar down to the finish line.

“Congratulations Thunder Bay! I'm so excited for your new Marathon, Half Marathon and 5k
taking place in September 2010” says Beardsley. “I have made many friends in Thunder Bay
over the years and I so look forward to coming back to run your race and see old friends in
a first class city that I know will put on a world class event!”

Participants also have the option to raise pledges for one of eleven charities through the
Run for a Reason Charity Pledge Program by simply choosing a charity during the
registration process. The participating charities are: The Arthritis Society, Boys & Girls Club
of Thunder Bay, Camp Quality, Canadian Red Cross Society, Dilico Children’s Foundation,
Easter Seals Society, Habitat for Humanity, Heart & Stroke Foundation, Our Kids Count,
Terry Fox Foundation, and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation.
Sponsors and volunteers are still needed to make the Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with
the Giant a huge success. Visit w w for more information.

For more information, contact Barry Streib, President. Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with the Giant

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thinking Like Consumers

What if we, as Tourism marketers, thought like the consumers we are trying to attract?

Well first, we'd realize that consumers don't care about geopolitical boundaries and even most of them don't even think about the destination first. They care about the experience! 75% of travellers seek an experience first, with the most suitable destination for that experience following up the rear. Only 25% of travellers seek a destination (think Vegas!)

When we market the city, the region or the Province, we need to realize that these destinations don't really mean too much. Thunder Bay district, Northwestern Ontario, etc are all labels from a by gone era where political boundaries made for a convenient border around a organized regional travel association.

Well if I may be so bold, the reality is that the consumer doesn't really care. We need to start aligning our partnerships around the way people research, choose and execute their travel experience by forming alliances along the commonality of experience and the travel corridors to get there. high quality angling and hunting, eco tourism and snow mobiling extends beyond district boundaries. Touring routes for the growing motorcycle, RV and auto club markets need to align together as well (how many little individual Lake Superior regional associations are there promoting their little stretch of road?)

As for travel corridors, looking at the road, water and air routes people typically use is also important and cities like Thunder Bay, Fort Frances and Kenora play a vital role in being gateway centers for experience seekers to rest, eat, stock up on supplies, sight see or rent a car. U.S Midwest markets head up highway 61 into the city, air travellers access the region through our exceptional airport facility, our port is growing a reputation for hosting cruise ships and private yachts alike.

As we move into a new era of tourism marketing and management in Northern Ontario, we need to think in these terms to form new alliances that break down traditional tourism marketing boundaries and giuve consumers more of what they want. We already have a good inventory of the product people are looking for and we're talking more with each other across those old political boundaries. Lets just put the bow on it.

Recognizing the Regional Approach to Tourism

Thunder Bay plays a fundamental role in the regional tourism economy and I recognize the value of working with regional partners beyond our municipal boundaries to move the yard stick further.

I communicate and partner with literally hundreds of tourism partners and organizations and while meeting the individual requirements of each one presents challenges, I'm proud of the positive relationship we've built with virtually everyone.

As many know, I've been a Director with the North of Superior Tourism Association board over the past two years, elected by putting my name forward and voted by members. While I've been very proud of that role, I've started looking closely at the process by which I invest time and resources into partner organizations and discovered that I do not need to always be board member to influence decisions or build partnerships.

As many know, I've stepped down from the board this past week and my reason is very simply. Time. As the organization goes through a metamorphosis of late, its taken a lot of my time and that's time away from other projects, partners and yes, even my own family. With a work week that routinely spans 60-70 hours and sometimes carries on for 20-25 days in a row, I had an epiphany that influencing regional decisions doesn't require a board seat.

There's rumours circulating that Tourism Thunder Bay has pulled out of NOSTA. Nothing is, in fact, further from the truth. We still are, and will continue to be, a valuable member of the association and look at the association, its board and staff as important partners. In my departing remarks in my capacity as a Director yesterday, offered my continued leadership, advice, expertise and resources to the association to build successful marketing partnerhsips that deliver return on investment and benefit our many members in the city and region. Another rumour is that my seat is appointed municipally. I ran as an individual tourism professional and was duly elected by the membership. My decision to leave the board was also mine.

To work in silos, particularly at this time in tourism, is just wrong. To work effectively doesn't always require a seat on the board but simply a seat somewhere at the table. I represent a very diverse group of local tourism partners and its important that I treat each one equally and work with everyone for the betterment of the industry and to that , a neutral point of view is essential. That's not always possible while sitting formally on a board.

We have both challenging and exciting times ahead of us in tourism and I'm fiercely proud of the advancements Tourism Thunder Bay has made in recent years to raise the profile of the city as "one of Canada's Best Outdoor Cities." The rewards are in the emails and calls I get from Kenora to Wawa from regional partners interested in linking to our strategy in a bigger regional sense. The key is that it takes everyone working together with a common goal of advancing the industry. I certainly hope to see everyone on the same page moving into 2010 and I, as always, will be in at the table, board seat or not.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Art Zoom Showcases Thunder Bay's Cultural Assets

The busy summer leisure travel season typically gives way to strong corporate and sport tourism markets for us in the fall and early winter but a number of shoulder season events have been emerging to help attract regional visitors to the city during what have traditionally been slower leisure travel periods.

Artzoom ( is a great weekend event now in its third year that aims to bring visitors - and residents for that matter - back to the downtown north core. Held on the first Saturday of December, its become one of my personal faves because its close to home. I can walk downtown, enjoy a great dinner at one of the great eateries down there and stroll from gallery to gallery, shop to shop and see the creativity that our community possesses. I like it because its a great way to connect with our cultural tourism partners, find out what they're up to and learn about the new ones.

Definitely Superior Art Gallery (, St Paul Gallery, Painted Turtle, Linda Dell and others are all places we should know about in the tourism industry. These are places we need to recommend to visitors who are looking for something different and uniquely Thunder Bay. The fact that there are so many of these places so close together, and than complimented by eateries, the casino , hotels and B and Bs makes this a great little weekend getaway destination.

One of my faves this year (and a great find that put me in tears of sheer laughter) was an accidental stumble upon a little gem called Uncle Mowglies Skate and Paint ( This shop, on Red River Road, is located strategically near the new skate and BMX plaza and produces some fantastic Thunder Bay promotional apparel that speaks to all of us who are fiercely proud of the neighborhoods we grew up in or call home today. "Port Arthur", "Fort William", "Westfort" and even "Simpson Street" all show up - sometimes tongue in cheek - on classic black tees. These gems, created in house on their own screen printer, do their part to help promote the city. Each neighborhood tells a story of who we are and how we got here and even in this day where we are all "Thunder Bayites", its the identity of our neighborhoods - all of them - that makes us culturally unique.

With the Christmas VFR season upon us, I recommend taking your visiting friends and relatives to to the north core for a stroll, a meal and a little gift shopping at one of the many unique galleries that make us not only one of Canada's best outdoor cities but also one of the most culturally gifted.

Sharing Cruise Shipping Education with Northshore Communities Aims to Build New Market.

This past summer saw an important milestone for Tourism Thunder Bay with the Transport Canada certification and opening of our very own passenger marine terminal at the Pool 6 Tourism Administration centre. With the first stage completed and a flawless operating year under our belts, we are turning our attention to a long term strategy for infrastructure improvements to the site and attracting more long term commercial cruise vessels and encouraging large private yachts to utilize the terminal.

While cruise shipping admittedly makes up a small percentage of visitors to the city, its is a very important element in our long term product development strategy. Cruise shipping is, for lack of a better word, "sexy" and elevates the reputation of the city and region as a must see destination as a result. There is a exotic romance about cruise shipping and to be included as a destination alongside the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Galapagos and Antarctica can only help create a positive image of what we possess.

Its also important that we remember that numbers don't always mean as much as economic impact. While we welcomed some 900 passengers and 75 crew to the city, the economic impact of cruise shipping is approximately 4.5 times more than that of our average overnight visitor arriving by land. Our 12 visits by the MV Clelia II injected over $650 000 into the Thunder Bay economy and created the equivalent of 2 full time jobs in just 12 day stops.

We're proud of being perhaps the only tourism organization in Canada that controls its own passenger marine terminal and that gives us the complete freedom and flexibility to work seamlessly with the cruise operators to accommodate their requirements quickly and efficiently. Capitalizing on our strategic port location on the world's biggest and greatest freshwater lake, our fantastic airlift capacity of Thunder Bay International Airport, unique attractions, an abundance of hotel inventory and first rate marine servicing companies, we are working aggressively to become a destination for cruise vessels to home port during the summer months.

To do this, we need more ports involved. During the first week of December, Stephen Burnett, the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition, and myself, toured the north shore of Superior to present cruise shipping workshops in Red Rock and Wawa. In total, over 45 people turned out to learn about being cruise and port ready, identify opportunities within their communities to welcome cruise itinerary planners, develop memorable quality shore excursion programs and go through the steps to certify their secure marine facilities.

In each community, we met with a cross section of community political and business leaders, outfitters, EDOs and interested citizens interested in learning about the possibilities. Once regarded by many as not possible for freshwater coastal communities, they saw the potential that the future of fresh water experiential cruising can bring to their economic diversification efforts. The atmosphere throughout each work shop was abuzz with positive contributions.

We also chatted a little about the other market we've ignored and that is the super yacht class of private and charter vessel. These private yachts, from 80 to 200 feet, represent a new and exciting clientele for the Superior coastal communities. Thousands of these vessels ply North American coastal regions alone, they're owned by those with a sizable disposable income and they are looking for new, safe and interesting destinations. What better place to escape hurricane season of the lower eastern seaboard and gulf coastal regions of the US than the freshwater of the great lakes.

It takes everyone working together across municipal and geo political boundaries to make this happen. With several smaller lines interested in entering service, now is the time for regions to start getting ready. A big thanks to Leslie Fredericks and Ray Rivard of Red Rock and Lori Johnson of Wawa for coordinating the sessions and playing host to us last week.

If you want to learn more about becoming a cruise ship destination port, visit To learn more about the super yacht industry, visit

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tourism Spotlight - Get in Gear

Promoting Thunder Bay as one of Canada's Great Outdoor Cities requires a strong network of local retail partners to help visitors prepare for their adventures. Being a gateway or base camp, the city realizes a powerful economic impact when anglers, campers, hikers, kayakers and sailors stock up on supplies, food and equipment in the city prior to heading out and taking in our urban accommodation, cultural and culinary experiences at the end of their trip. One of those key outdoor retailers is Gear Up For Outdoors and owner Jon Wynn, who has been a huge supporter of our outdoor tourism strategy.

Celebrating 23 years of business, Gear-up for Outdoors has grown and expanded to become one of the largest outdoor retailers of high quality name brand tents, packs, clothing, outerwear, boots & shoes. And that’s not all. They also carry a complete line of winter outdoor gear like snowshoes and summer camping gear including camp stoves, sleeping bags and a whole line of
accessories. They consider their kid’s line of clothing is only the best for your children.

Well established high end name brands of outerwear and footwear will provide warmth when required and the necessary comfort all day long. Gear-up prides itself on knowledge, and their well educated staff has an extensive understanding of all brands and products to make decisions on what to buy easier; but important to make your outdoor experience a memorable one. Their staff is among the best at what they do and pride themselves on making sure customers are happy.

"We are constantly attending Vendor Product Trade shows 6-months to 1-year in advance
to assure the most current products are available for our customers, as well we attempt to
stock the most current colors, styles, and sizing! Our online store has been outfitting
and shipping all your outdoor equipment and clothing needs throughout Canada, United States, Europe, both poles and everywhere in between for the past 14 years!"

Gear Up For Outdoors endeavors to provide the highest quality and most functional outdoor products and equipment for all seasons. For professionals in the field of Forestry, Geology,
Mining and Tree Planting, we carry an extensive variety of specialized safety footwear and clothing as well as measuring, mapping, and marking supplies, instruments & tools.

And for those special occasions throughout the year, they carry some of the most wonderful gift
ideas for those special people in your life. Check out their website at or drop in and see them at 894 Alloy Place, Thunder Bay.

(portions of this article were recently seen in New Horizons magazine)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Selling Thunder Bay as a Conference Destination at CSAE

Tourism Thunder Bay will have a presence at the 2009 Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) being held at the Toronto Metro Convention Center November 25-27th.

Look for us at booth 614 where we'll be promoting Thunder Bay as an ideal meeting and convention location to the thousands of delegates looking for the "unconventional convention" destination. Many of these associations have branches in Thunder Bay and thus a reason to meet here. Its part of our enhanced meeting and convention attraction strategy that focuses on segments that have connections to the city already, making them more likely to consider us as a destination.

As part of our overall strategy to promote Thunder Bay as one of Canada's best outdoor cities, we've integrated the uniqueness of our geography into our meeting and convention strategy, focusing on unique venues such as Fort William Historical Park ( or Whitewater Golf Club ( quality convention hotels and unique corporate retreat locations. We have also begun integrating the cities leisure and culinary activities into conference attraction efforts, encouraging organizers and delegates to get out of the meeting rooms and enjoy the slopes, the lake, an attraction of iconic culinary experience while here.

Its also a great national venue to promote our superior air connectivity and we'll be letting delegates know about Porter (, Jazz ( and Westjet ( connections from major centers as well as our regional air partners Bearskin ( and Wasaya ( Being so well served is one of our strategic advantages over other Northern Ontario cities and being geographically centered in Canada makes us a convenient location for national and international gatherings.

If your in the area, stop by and chat with Rose Marie Tarnowski, our Meeting and Convention Coordinator.

September Border Crossing Show Continual Improvements

After a softer August, September's Pigeon River border crossings jumped substantially this year, bringing optimism for a return to traditional US travel market levels. At a time when many destination marketing organizations in Canada have written off US markets or continued with shotgun campaigns, our approach to targeting the travel motivations of the 7.1 million passport holders in the US midwest appears to have been paying off.

September 2009 saw 10, 332 U.S. residents cross into the Thunder Bay District from Pigeon River, up 12% from 9,124 the previous September.

Same day and 2 plus night overnight visits increased by 5% and 17% respectively while single night overnight trips dropped 15%. Same day travel was responsible for 19% of traffic (1,944), single overnight stays at 5% (417) and 2 plus night travel made up 77% (7,971) of U.S. travel to the district. A larger percentage of U.S.visitors are staying longer in the district, increasing economic impacts.

Shifts in our U.S. based marketing programs towards avid touring and outdoor experience seekers, innovative partnerships with OTMPC into the Madison and St Paul markets and direct initiatives by other tourism partners in the city and area such as the Fort William Historical Park Canada Gateway Center are likely the main reasons behind this positive trend and demonstrate the importance of using consumer travel motivator data as the basis for tourism marketing strategies.

Friday, November 13, 2009

September Hotel Performance Lower but Still Ahead of National Trends

September's hotel performance statistics are in and while room demand is moderately down over September 2008, the city remains one of the least adversely affected Canadian markets in 2009.

Room demand is down 5.9% over September 2008. Occupancy levels have dropped to 73.7% from 79% a year ago and average daily room rates have increased from $94.64 to $98.18. Within this time frame an additional 1% of room capacity has been added to the 2288 rooms in the district inventory largely through expansion of existing properties. In essence, while occupancy and room demand is down, it appears that increased revenue through the increased average daily room rates could offset the room demand drop. Theoretically, properties aren't necessarily taking in any less gross revenues than last September

For the year to date, hotel performance is down 2.1% compared to the end of Q3 2008. While down, it still remains the 3rd strongest hotel market for 2008 after the red hot Regina/Saskatoon market and Quebec City. Its important to look at the performance within the context of the environment we're all operating in and compare to other national markets to identify the true opportunities and threats. The truth remains that for our urban tourism industry, the sky is definitely not falling. We do, however, have to remain vigilant, know our performance, understand our markets and respond pragmatically.

This September's decrease over 2008 is likely tied to a number of factors including poor weather that impacted fall touring in the leisure segment, a constriction of corporate overnight meeting and convention travel and the fact that the end of September 2008 saw 450 participants beginning to arrive in Thunder Bay for the Canadian Armed Forces SAREX competitions.

However, its also important for us to review this data, identify low periods and plan adjustments to our future tourism marketing and promotion strategy to help rebuild market share. Our recently released new meeting and convention attraction program and a larger hands on presence at Canada's leading convention planners industry showcases, the introduction of the inaugural September 2010 Thunder Bay marathon and adjustments to our participation in Lake Superior touring promotion are all underway to rebuild traffic for next year.

To follow national hotel performance trends yourself, visit

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Showing Some Heart

I've always said "To sell the city to the world, we have to sell it to ourselves first."

More and more throughout the community, this statement is ringing true with a increasing number of community individuals, groups and companies stepping up to show and share their pride in the community.

Johnny Debakker, who last year, created the I "Heart" TBay t-shirt, is one such individual. Now worn by hundreds, if not thousands of local residents and visitors alike, nothing so simple has had such a effect at putting smiles on people's faces and encouraging them to appreciate this fantastic community we call home. Even our entire city council has gotten in on the fun (see pic). Being proud of our city is also about knowing whats going on around us, being aware of advancements and evolution of our economy and sharing it with others to create a more positive environment around us.

Years ago, I asked a hotel clerk in El Paso Texas what there was to see in the city. The dry response was simply and unenthusiastically "Mexico." I did explore more and found the city to be vibrant and fun but I'll never forget the first response to my question.

With 692 000 visitors coming to the city annually, there are travelers every day exploring our community who may very well ask you or I for directions, recommendations on attractions, events, culinary and accommodation experiences. People ask about the economy of the city, urban legends, points of interest and other things too. That's why its important for each and every one of us to understand what we have, be proud of it and talk enthusiastically to others about what there is to explore here. At the end of the day it enhances our community's reputation and that ultimately puts people to work.

If you want to show some community pride and pick up a I "Heart" TBay shirt, visit Ozone on Memorial Ave, Lava on Brodie St, Lux on Frederica, Push Fitness on Fort William Road or The Loop on Bay St. For more info, visit

Friday, November 6, 2009

Spreading Positive News About our Tourism Potential

Tourism Thunder Bay has been making its rounds recently, sharing our tourism marketing and product development philosophy with a number of local, regional and provincial groups. Its a major part of our strategy to share our outlook, successes and ideas with industry and expand the city's reputation as being on the cutting edge of tourism development in Ontario.

On November 2, we presented an overview of Thunder Bay's waterfront and cruise shipping infrastructure strategy to a group of 22 economic development professionals from across North Western Ontario. the forum, sponsored by EDCO ( and the Ministry of Tourism's Investment Development Office ( , provided valuable information to community development officers considering major capital infrastructure project s to enhance their tourism economies. Thunder Bay's new mixed use waterfront development enhancements at Prince Arthur's Landing will create over $202 million in community economic impacts and employ over 200 people once completed. It will bring people to the waterfront on a more year around basis and the accommodation and residential components will see more people live and stay in the downtown core, increasing the opportunities for successful downtown revitalization.

November 3rd found Tourism Thunder Bay speaking at the annual Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario ( conference held in Sault Ste Marie. Our topic was "Business as Unusual. How Outdoor Tourism Operators can Build Successful Partnerships with the Cities Around Them." In a year that has seen numerous challenges for the traditional resource based tourism industries in Northern Ontario, we aimed to establish a positive message about thinking outside of the box and looking at new ways to partner with urban partners to increase opportunities for new markets.

People who know me know that I hate negativity and self loathing. It doesn't do anything to sell our experiences to the world, let alone ourselves. We have to take the changes in the tourism environment to be catalysts for innovative, positive and constructive new directions. We spoke about the successes of the City's new strategy to promote the city as one of Canada's Best Outdoor Cities and gateway to some of the world's best outdoor experiences. We touched on the importance of understanding customer's needs, improving quality and applying the principles of sustainable tourism to meet the growing demands of today's traveler. The presentation was well received and we've already had interest from regional operators asking how they can link into the City of Thunder Bay's marketing strategy and build partnerships with local hotels, retailers and others to extend the stay for their clients in the region.

One of the trends we've seen develop is the linking of golf and angling. Thunder Bay offers some great golf "stay and play" packages and we encourage regional fishing and hunting operators to promote this package as a way to attract at least one night's stay for their clients in the city. These guests play golf, rent clubs, dine and spend a night in the city and that increases the economic impact for everyone. Go to for more information on these packages and how you're lodge can help promote it.

On a related note, thanks to Harold Wilson at the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce for his positive shout out to Tourism Thunder Bay. We recently provided an overview of the Tourism Division to the Chamber's Small Business Committee and had some great dialogue begin that will undoubtedly lead to some new enhanced partnership opportunities between the Chamber and the City around the tourism industry. This is a presentation we're always happy to provide to any group, big or small so feel free to email me at to arrange a time to speak to your organization.

Monday, November 2, 2009

FWHP Wins Discovery Award

Fort William Historical Park has been recognized by its peers in the Ministry of Tourism for noteworthy efforts in increasing cross-border visits from the United States.

The Fort received the Discovery Award for Innovative Risk Taker thanks to the opening of the Fort William Historical Park Canada Gateway Centre in Grand Marais, Minnesota earlier this summer.

The Discovery Awards identify and recognize excellence in public service within the Ministry of Tourism. Awards in six categories were presented at the Ministry’s Staff Day in Toronto earlier this month.

On hand to receive the award as team members were General Manager Sergio Buonocore, Manager of Marketing and Customer Service Doug Stanton, Historical Operations Manager Peter Boyle, and Business Services Manager Sandei Beattie. Fellow award winners absent for the ceremony were Corporate Development Officer Chris Ficek and Collections Team Leader Shawn Patterson.

The Canada Gateway Centre represents a partnership between the Fort and American entrepreneur David Parsons of Parsons Management, who also operates the Grand Marais Inn. The grand opening occurred May 27th, 2009. The initiative is designed to encourage U.S. travellers passing through Grand Marais to visit the Fort, Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario. Grand Marais was targeted due to high tourist traffic during the summer and its relatively close proximity to Thunder Bay.

General Manager Buonocore says that the Gateway Centre is a unique initiative and that the Discovery Award represents hard work by all Fort staff. “There’s no other initiative like this in the Ministry of Tourism,” says Mr. Buonocore. “And the Discovery Award is a reflection of the ongoing team effort by the entire Fort staff.”

The Centre is contributing to increases in revenue (29%) and attendance (40%) for FWHP 2009 to date, compared to the similar calendar period in 2008.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Encouraging Youth to Consider Careers in Tourism

With high school , college and university curriculum in full swing this time of year, its also the time we ramp up the educational elements of our tourism mandate, speaking to students from grade 8 up to 4th year university about the local tourism industry.

Over the past few weeks, we've taken our message to Churchill High school's Grade 11 I.B. geography program, Confederation Colleges second year marketing program and most recently, Lakehead University's second year "issues in tourism" class. Hats off to educators in our secondary and post secondary school systems who understand the value of tourism and want to integrate our work into their curriculum.

Reaching out to the next generation of potential marketers, entrepreneurs and outfitters is always a rewarding part of our mandate. Sharing our marketing strategy, consumer research, industry performance and product development focus with youth helps them with their studies and raises the interest and awareness in tourism. Our focus has been diverse, ranging from a workshop on geography's role in shaping our tourism focus to our other topics including marketing strategy, product development, social media in tourism and data analysis.

I always start a presentation with asking a few simple questions. "How many of you have grown up in the City?" and "How many of you want to make a career for yourself here after you graduate?" The first question solicits mixed results based on the audience, with the majority of high school students having lived here since birth, whereas the university groups typically have a 80-90% out of town residency rate. The second question, at all levels, sees very few wishing to stay here after school. That is something we have to change and the small percentage of those who want to stay -usually 10-20% are going to have to be the leaders to create new opportunities so that others will want to stay. Its also important to recognize that we'll never be everything to everyone. some people love big cities and some people love small cities. Youth have a natural exuberance to explore and see the world beyond their city limits. Some, as we are seeing now, eventually return to set down their roots and help grow the community.

One of the biggest challenges facing the industry right now is the recruitment of motivated customer oriented employees and we see this as a way to encourage them to consider career opportunities within the hospitality and tourism sector. Its also an industry that needs new ideas and enthusiasm to meet the changes in the industry and take advantage of new opportunities in a proactive and constructive entrepreneurial manner. Thunder Bay has a lot more potential to become a world class destination than many give credit too. It simply takes people with a positive attitude and a spirit to see it through to that level. Encouraging them at an early age when they are forming their opinion about the city, presents a perfect chance to gain their support.

We're always happy to share our presentation materials with groups and individuals alike. You can email me at to get a copy or book myself or one of our team to speak to your work, social or educational group about elements of our tourism economy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

September Visitor Center Registrations Show Upswing in Traffic

The Terry Fox Visitor Information Center enjoyed a significant upswing in traffic in September 2009, with 7,546 persons using the facility, up 19.5% from 6,312 users in September 2008.

Of the 7,546, building visitors, 2,471 took the time to register in our visitor management system, providing us with some valuable consumer data. Approximately 75% of visitors were Canadian, with 57% of those being from Ontario. These markets are followed by Alberta (11%), British Columbia (8%), Quebec (8%) and Manitoba (7%).

U.S. residents accounted for 20%, largely from our key Minnesota (31%), Wisconsin (18%) and Michigan (15%) markets while 5% were from overseas, primarily Germany and the Netherlands.

The increase in traffic coincides with the traditional fall touring traffic around Lake Superior and is encouraging to see. An increased shift towards promoting the City's location along the Lake Superior Circle Tour to the touring markets in both Canada and the United States is likely contributing to the early returns on investment as is our overall outdoor strategy that continues to draw those seeking unique recreational experiences on the doorstep of the City. After a summer season that continuously saw lower than average temperatures, a pleasant, seasonal September created a better touring environment for the region.

Promoting our City's connection to the natural spaces around us and our location on the Circle Tour is key to increasing awareness of one of North America's most scenic coastal drives to the hundreds of thousands of avid motorcycle, RV and auto club visitors who continuously seek out new destinations based on exceptional scenery, culturally unique communities and winding highways.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quality, Value and Relevance Are Keys to Success in Challenging Times.

Entrepreneurs need to be nimble at the best of times to succeed and the have to take advantage of changes in the environment around them. No where is this fact more true than the tourism industry, an industry that has seen its share of changing environmental elements.

In the past, our traditionally low dollar value against the US currency has been a central point in tourism marketing for us all. "You Dollar goes further" was a staple of visitor attraction programs. In the past two years, we've seen several cycles that have brought our dollar on par or even greater and that means we have to rethink our approach and messaging.

The core elements to this changing environment are quality, value and relevance - pure and simple. Now is the time that tourism operators and marketers need to look at their offerings and ensure they are offering experiences that make consumers feel good. Whether its exceptional customer care service, going the extra mile to make visitors feel welcome and comfortable, spotless rooms and exceptional dining experiences, quality is always appreciated. I shake my head when I drive by a property that hasn't cut its grass in 3 months and even recently, I had to call 4 restaurants to order 8 sandwiches - 8 simple sandwiches - on an hour's notice before someone could help me. Quality and customer care start at the most basic levels.

Value doesn't mean gutting rates simply to retain visitors. Reducing prices too much makes it hard to raise rates again in the future and could undermine operating viability even in the short term.. Its important for operators to find that balance of offering quality experiences that consumers feel good about without them feeling gouged. These experiences make them feel pampered, appreciated and wanting to return. As an industry, we need to be confident in the quality of our experiences and charge accordingly - competitively but appropriately. We have to remember that there are a lot of travelers Globally who want the outdoor adventures we have around us and place a value on them.

The last simple tip is relevance - perhaps the most important element of all. We all need to market experiences that consumers want. It sounds simple but for years. we've created products and experience we think consumers want and often, tourism development and marketing in rural Ontario has been based on political boundaries and destinations rather than consumer research based around experiences. Remember, 75% of travelers look for an experience first, not a destination, when planning their vacation.

We've made some bold shifts in our own marketing strategy to target experience seekers in specific categories where we know we have an advantage and that seems to have been successful in 2009 judging by the positive US Border traffic coming into Thunder Bay at Pigeon River. By focusing on avid outdoor seekers and touring groups such as motor cycles, RVs and auto clubs, we've been able to reach new relevant demographics effectively. Individual businesses too, have match their products and experiences to the consumers who want them and while that sounds like a daunting task, knowing your customers is the foundation of success in business.

We all need to know exactly who are customers are and match their needs to the experiences we know we offer well. This blog's regular postings on travel statistics helps small businesses plan their marketing and product development initiatives. The recently released Premier Ranked Destination Framework is an invaluable tool to help small businesses in the Thunder Bay district analyse consumer needs and the Ministry of Tourism ( 0ffers a wide range of research tools online-free of charge - to assist the tourism industry in ensuring our experiences are what consumers are looking for and targeting them more effectively.

There are certainly no end of ideas for small businesses to pursue in reaching new markets and meeting the needs of new consumer environments but hopefully these three elements -quality, value and relevance- remain the foundation we all remember when we undertake our business planning.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Building on the Potential of Lake Superior Boating

Lake Superior has some of the most impressive shoreline of any lake in the world and is, undoubtedly, a dream destination for many boaters. The Lake's vast size and near absence of infrastructure on the Canadian side are both draws and challenges.

During the 2009 boating season, some 39 US vessels and 8 Canadian private vessels called upon the Marina, staying a combined 151 days in the city. The average length of U.S boat was 36.7 feet while the average size of visiting Canadian vessels was 30 feet. The vast majority of visiting U.S. vessels were from Minnesota (22), with a half dozen or so from both Michigan and Wisconsin. The vessels recorded are those that entered the marina by water rather than arrived by trailer and those visits number in the dozens although no accurate tracking of them has been undertaken.

So why are we not attracting more boaters? There are over 800 000 vessels registered in Minnesota and 600 000 in Wisconsin. There are hundreds of thousands more registered in Michigan and Illinois. While many of these registrations are small trailer type fishing boats, there are tens of thousands of vessels in excess of 30 feet that are docked at hundreds of Marinas around the basin. The answer is that we collectively have not done as much as we can as a region to reach this large niche market. Reaching them is easy. Most belong to yacht or boating clubs and marinas, many communicate in on line boating communities and many attend boating consumer shows in major centers.

The key is to work together as a Lake Superior community and recognize that our individual cities are not the destination but rather the entire lake is. To do this successfully, we have to think of lake experiences and the consumer motivators that link to them. Next, we have to discard the geo-political boundaries that so often limit our marketing programs. Travellers care less about a destination, than on the experiences that exist there. When we limit ourselves to Ontario, Or Minnesota or the North of Superior political boundaries only, we don't tell the whole story to potential new visitors about the rich experiences here that transcend borders.

Tourism Thunder Bay is partnering with the Townships of Red Rock and Nipigon to increase awareness of our part of the lake with a presence at the 2010 Minneapolis Boat Show. All three of our communities are reinventing our economies and with that, enhanced waterfronts play prominent roles to provide infrastructure and visitor attractions to attract vessels and keep them in the area longer. While we have been a part of the North of Superior Marina Marketing Association over the past few years. the association is currently not as active as in the past and we're stepping up with regional partners to help promote the experiences that exist. In the long term, we'd like to see this partnership grow to include other Lake Superior communities, in both countries.

The need exists for a larger, pan Superior strategy to market boating on the big lake to the tens of thousands of big boats around the Great Lakes and as far as the Florida Keys that are seeking new freshwater cruising experiences close to home. Tourism Thunder Bay, through our membership in the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition, is also a member of the U.S. Super yacht Association, a gathering of vessel owners and managers of private vessels 80 feet to 200 feet in length. For those skeptical as to the potential to attract these vessels here, opportunities exist and with a long term vision and a comprehensive marketing and product development strategy to accommodate the needs of boat owners and charterers, it can and will grow. In fact, this past summer, the 115 Motor Yacht "Paradigm", called upon the Port and is only one example of what we can attract in the future.

Building upon our potential takes time but as I like to say, there are two good times to plant a tree - 20 years ago and today.

August 2009 U.S. Border Crossing Numbers Released

Canada Border Services Agency has released its August 2009 travel statistics for the Pigeon River Border Crossing

August 2009 saw an 8.3% decline in U.S. travellers over 2008, with 18, 043 US residents travelling into Canada at that point versus 19,672 the previous year.

All segments were affected with the following results

Same Day 2,987 (2009) - 5% from
1 Night 626 (2009) -15%
2 + Night 14,430 (2009) -9%

Our year to date U.S. traffic is 74,348 residents versus 75,434 in 2008, resulting in a very modest overall year to date decline of 1.5%, not bad considering the economic environment we are all working within.

While the August figures are disappointing, we have to look at these numbers within the context of the U.S. economy, passport regulations, cooler weather and a upward creep of the Canadian dollar around this time.

Monday, October 19, 2009

August Hotel Occupancy Continues to Show Optimism In challenging Environment

HVS Canada has released its August hotel performance for all major markets in Canada and once again, Thunder Bay's accommodation sector has continued to hold steady in a challenging international environment.

Room demand in August 2009 was up 0.8% while occupancy rates were down slightly to 77.6% from 77.7% in 2008. While flat performance is normally nothing to get too excited about, this has been the year the tourism industry was facing unprecedented challenges and everyone, including ourselves, was expecting to see some sort of notable decrease. This is the year where measuring our performance relative to other cities is just as important as measuring our performance to past years.

With most major markets reporting declines in August, including Windsor (down 36.7%) and Edmonton (down 10%), Thunder Bay was joined in reporting increases by Sudbury, Vancouver and Saskatoon.

Overall, Thunder Bay's year to date performance is down modestly 1.1% over the same 8 months of 2008. Once again, while a concern in normal years, it is the least significant decline of all but one hotel market - Saskatoon, who posted a 1% increase.

While summer corporate markets are typically softer, stronger mineral exploration and health sciences segments have likely given our corporate segment a summer boost. With respect to the traditionally strong summer segments of leisure, VFR and sport tourism there are likely a number of reasons market share has remained steady, including strong visiting friends and family travel to the city and a shift in our U.S. based campaigns with a focus on touring and avid outdoor seekers that brought stronger than expected US travel to the city in June and July.

Despite these positive performance indicators, we have to remain vigilant and continue to build traffic in both new and core existing markets. The release of these numbers has continuously created a positive buzz about the City's economy over the past few months and we are constantly asked at industry functions about the local environment. Maintaining the current positive buzz and using new media tools to promote more of this news has the effect of positioning the city more successfully as a destination of choice because we all know, people want to go where other people are going.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Valhalla Inn Invests in Quality Experiences with Newly Renovated Rooms

Quality is the cornerstone to building a successful tourism economy and elevating our community's reputation as a first class destination for visitor experiences. As such, its always noteworthy to acknowledge Thunder Bay tourism partners who are investing in their facilities. Investments such as these improve Thunder Bay's reputation as a quality destination for leisure, work, sport, culinary and accommodation experiences

The Valhalla Inn, Thunder Bay’s Premier hotel is pleased to announce the completion of guest room renovations. The 4th and 5th floor rooms have been completely renovated at a cost of more than 2 million dollars. Renovations include 30 Amethyst rooms on the 5th floor and 30 Executive Suites on the 4th Floor. There are also 2 luxury suites available with whirlpool tubs and extravagant fixtures.

The Valhalla Inn will be holding a grand opening showcasing the new rooms on Thursday October 15th , 4:30 – 7:30. All media is invited. Tours for the media will precede the event please call Bill Dell @ 577-1121 for viewing times.

I'd like to extend congratulations to the Valhalla for making this investment in quality.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vote for the Sleeping Giant in CBC's Great Canadian Song Quest.

October 14, 2009 – Thunder Bay could be immortalized through song if the Sleeping Giant is chosen as Ontario’s location for CBC Radio 2’s Great Canadian Song Quest. Voting is now open through Oct. 23

The Sleeping Giant was nominated as one of the most popular places finalist locations for Ontario in the campaign that was launched in September. The contest gives Canadians a chance to nominate what locations matter most tothem and commission 13 new songs to be written about those places. Not onlywill Canadians get to decide on one place from each province, they will also get to vote on the 13 singer-songwriters who will compose and recordthe new songs.

The City of Thunder Bay is asking residents to go and cast their vote for the Sleeping Giant. Residents are also encouraged to ask friends and family outside of the City to participate by voting for the Sleeping Giant.

The final 13 artists will be revealed Oct. 26 and composition on the original songs will begin. The final locations and songs will be announcedon Nov. 23.

“This is a unique avenue to promote and share Thunder Bay's incrediblenatural beauty across the country,” said Mayor Lynn Peterson. “It would begreat to hear our natural wonder promoted through music.”

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ahnisnabae Art Gallery Wins at the Northern Ontario Business Awards

Congratulations goes out to local business Ahnisnabae Art Gallery and owner Loise Thomas for being victorious at the 2009 Northern Ontario Business Awards ( held in Sault Ste Marie this past week. Ahnisnawbae Art took home honours for the First Nations Business Award of Excellence category.

This gallery, located on South James Street between Gore and Frederica, has become an incredible cultural gem in our community, attracting visitors from all over. A look at the website or stroll through the gallery shows the works from dozens of regional Ahnisnabae artisans that is available for purchase. For those in the tourism industry, be it an attraction, hotel or restaurant, its worth the visit to understand the scope of talent that exists in our city and region and its certainly one of those "must see" stops to tell your visitors about, especially those who want to acquire something regionally authentic to remember their visit here.

The Gallery was founded by the Late Roy Thomas in 1997 and since his death, has been run by his wife Louise as a tribute to his memory and his dedication to creating and sharing not only his own work but the works of other artists who promote Ahnisbabae culture. Its another fine example of the award winning world class cultural attractions that we have here in the community and region.

To learn more about the Gallery, visit

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Online Tools Help You Keep Up on the Waterfront Development

With the City of Thunder Bay's waterfront development well underway, there are a number of channels available to the community to stay on top of all of the activity and get answers to the questions they have. As part of an proactive communications strategy, a regular newsletter and facebook fan page have been established.

This is a high quality catalyst infrastructure investment in the community unlike anything in the past and will be relevant to the local population and help with visitor retention by keeping them in the city longer with a variety of activities including enhanced charter boat access, galleries, local eateries, water park, public walking and biking trails and spa. Subsequent phases of enhanced marina capacity and a cruise shipping terminal will become important regional beacons for the regional tourism economy, drawing educated adventure seekers to the city and area. Its a large, complex and complicated undertaking but one that will play a major role in the transition of Thunder Bay's tourism economy towards a more captivating destination. When one looks at some of the most successful cities in the world, a common theme is a vibrant mixed use waterfront that brings people to the waters edge 24 hours a day and year around.

The fact that the funding for the first phase is already committed is a testament to the quality of the project and the matching of pragmatic elements with consumer travel experience demands. At last week's Ontario Tourism Summit in Windsor, talk of the development was everywhere and at a time when many economies are constricting, the positive movement is putting Thunder Bay on the tourism map internationally. There are some in the community who are fearful of change, lack confidence in our community's potential to be world class or are just unaware that we have the ability to develop infrastructure and experiences that people the world over are seeking. Its important that we move forward confidently and boldly, take calculated risks based on good consumer research and embrace everything great this city can be.

New Paul Shaffer Bio Shines Spotlight on Thunder Bay

Perhaps the most important element in successfully promoting a community is through public relations. Maintaining a positive image and celebrating milestones and people continuously in the media helps build our brand, enhance our on line search ability and keeps us relevant in the public eye. Great people make a great community.
Former residents of the City who have gone on in the world to reach marks of excellence and accomplishments add to enhancing our community's image as well and its these people that, as ambassadors, bring positive attention to Thunder Bay. One of those folks is Paul Shaffer, a local musician who has made an impressive name for himself on the international scene, not only as the Musical Director on the Late Show with David Letterman but also through an extensive resume of film and music credits dating back to the 1970s.

Why am I discussing this in a tourism industry blog? Because Paul's Biography is released in North America today and undoubtedly talks positively about his time growing up in Thunder Bay. While I don't know Paul personally (people claim he and I look alike) I do know that he returns to the City regularly and is a great ambassador for this community. He's making the media rounds starting today to talk about his book, starting with his appearance on the Late Show tonight, where' he'll trade his trademark position at the keyboard for the guest chair to talk about the book and his experiences that took him to where he is today.

This is another great channel to place Thunder Bay out on the international landscape as a city that possesses an eclectic and fun musical culture and those who follow along on Paul's story will know a little more about the city than they did before, some will google "Thunder Bay",some will go to our city and tourism websites and some may actually make a trip as a result.

Paul, congratulations on the release of your biography and on your many musical successes and thanks for being a great city ambassador. You do a lot to bring positive attention and energy to the city you grew up in.

To learn more about Paul's new book, pick up a copy at Chapters Bookstore or visit

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thunder Bay to Host the 2011 Ontario Winter Special Olympics

The 2011 Special Olympics Provincial Winter Games, hosted by the City of Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Police Service and Thunder Bay Sports Central, is set for January 20th - 23rd, 2011 in Thunder Bay.

The Games will be the stage for more than 300 athletes and 125 coaches from across Ontario participating in six sport competitions. Curling, speed skating, figure skating, Nordic skiing, alpine skiing and snowshoeing will be highlights of the Games along with a number of social events and activities.

“The 2011 Special Olympics Winter Games will provide a provincial level of competition for many great Special Olympics athletes,” said Glenn MacDonell, President and CEO of Special Olympics Ontario. “We anticipate a fantastic Winter Games and we’re grateful to the City of Thunder Bay for their most hospitable manner.”

Special Olympics Ontario is part of a dynamic, worldwide charitable organization dedicated to providing sports training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The primary focus of Special Olympics Ontario (SOO) is to provide grassroots sports programs in communities throughout Ontario.

With an economic impact of over $800 000, these games will showcase our incredible winter landscape, outdoor experiences and legendary hospitality.

For Further Information Contact Chris Adams, Executive Officer – Thunder Bay Police Service 684-1248

Friday, October 2, 2009

Regional Partners Profiled for Tourism Photography at this Year's Tourism Summit

The 2009 Ontario tourism Summit has come and gone and has once again provided us with a great outlook for the future of the tourism economy, given us some insights into changing consumer behaviors and provided a look at proposed new legislative changes that will impact the industry. Its also been a chance to get caught up with friends in the industry, share our successes and learn new ideas from our peers.

One of the highlights of the annual conference is the tourism awards gala, an opportunity to celebrate excellence in Ontario tourism and learn from some of the best. While we were nominated in 2008 for best campaign under $25 000, we were not so fortunate this year (Did I mention we took home 2 gold medals at this year's Canada Marketing Awards?) However, two of our local and regional tourism partners were acknowledged with an award this year, one directly and one indirectly. They deserve to be recognized for their contribution to the Tourism economy.

Gary and Joanie McGuffin won for best tourism photography this year for their emotionally moving cover shot of the summer 2008 Superior Outdoors Magazine featuring the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area. Gary and Joanie are big friends of Tourism Thunder Bay and were important partners of the 2008 Seven Day With the Giant contest campaign. While Gary and Joanie live on the lake near Sault Ste Marie (I'm trying to convince them to relocate to Thunder Bay) their work on Lake Superior and in important Provincial Parks that the city is a gate way to, helps elevate the reputation of our city and region as a hub for some of North America's best outdoor experiences.

Equally important at the awards was the context of the winning photo in that it appears on the cover of Superior Outdoors, a 2 year old magazine celebrating the Lake Superior sustainable lifestyle that is produced right here in Thunder Bay by Darren and Michelle McChristie. This fantastic print and online editorial delight is quickly gaining attention across the North American sustainable tourism community and is, in its own right, elevating the region as a sustainable tourism destination of choice. Tourism Thunder Bay has been an advertiser in this magazine from its inception as we see the value it has in helping us reach new markets for affluent and educated outdoor seekers who are looking for experiences in and around the world's largest freshwater lake.

My team and I extend out heartfelt congratulations to Gary and Joanie for their great photographic interpretation of our great city and region and to Darren and Michelle McChristie for telling the story of Lake Superior in ways that have garnered them Provincial attention among their peers.

To learn more about the work of the McGuffins, visit To find out more about Superior Outdoors, visit or stop by Chapters in Thunder Bay to buy a copy.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2009 Ontario Tourism Summit Open Provides Positive Messages on The Road Ahead.

Tourism Thunder Bay is currently attending the 2009 Ontario Tourism Summit being held at Caesar's Hotel and Casino in Windsor Ontario.

This year's event is the fifth annual gathering of Tourism marketing professionals from across the Province and is aptly titled "The Road Ahead". Over 400 delegates from Provincial, Federal and Municipal government tourism agencies, private operators and destination marketing organizations are hearing from some of the most influential voices in tourism and marketing, networking with each other and learning from each other's successes and experiences-good and bad.

For Tourism Thunder Bay, this is the venue in which Seven Day's With the Giant was conceived, where we placed second for marketing campaign under $25 000 in 2008 and where we continue to communicate with other partners to grow our tourism industry locally and regionally.

Today's sessions focused on changing consumer behaviors that we need to recognize and capture, turning our brand equity into sales and the collective efforts of the Ministry of Tourism, Canadian Tourism Commission and the Tourism Industry of Ontario to market our experiences more effectively, develop new products that consumers want, make smarter marketing decisions based on consumer research and get updates on what our government and industry associations are doing to lobby on everything from passport requirements to the HST to the need for enhanced tourism infrastructure investments.

This has also been a chance to see the local tourism economy in Windsor, experience some of their top visitor attractions, learn about their challenges and their successes and bring some of those good ideas home.

A high note of the conference so far has been a riveting presentation from Peter Yesawich, Chairman and CEO of Y Partnership. He provided a fantastic overview on Emerging lifestyle and travel trends and their implications for marketing Ontario in the year ahead. Understanding the emotional reasons that effect consumer travel behavior, how they seek out information on new travel experiences, how to appeal to them on an emotional level and understanding changes in their values provided me personally with a lot of new information to work with moving into out 2010 and 2011 marketing strategy years. Once presentations are available online, I'll endeavour to make their content available here.

In keeping with the theme of "The Road Ahead", the conference hall was adorned with some classic automobiles courtesy of the Automobile History Museum located in Windsor. On a personal note, the chance to see an authentic Shelby Cobra is a great bonus to the learning and networking environment here.

To read the conference agenda, visit

Ministry ot Tourism Releases Celebrate Ontario Event Support Program for 2010

The Ontario Ministry of Tourism has announced today that Celebrate Ontario, the hugely popular financial support program for the tourism event sector, is renewing funding for the 2010 year. This year, once again, sees an overall budget of $11 million to be allocated to events across the Province and this year, the application deadline has been moved up considerably to November 27, 2009, rather than in past years where the deadline was in late January or early February. That gives you approximately 2 months to pull your applications and information together. Local events to have benefited over this year to March 2010 include the Sleeping Giant Loppet, Cavendish Cup, Sleeping Giant Writer's Festival and the Thunder Bay Bluesfest.

This is a great program with an easy to follow application process and I encourage event organizers who believe their event has a tourism draw to submit their applications as soon as possible for the program. As part of the packages, letters of support from the municipal tourism association are required and as I usually get a lot of requests at the 11th hour each year, I kindly ask that you submit your request to our office no later than November 18th to allow us time to review the request and respond specifically to each individual event request. I also ask that you submit a brief description of the event, operating budget, revenue sources, other partners and the estimated tourism impact to help us assess the letter of support request.

For more information, go to

Thursday, September 24, 2009


The countdown to the fi rst annual Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with the Giant race
weekend began in earnest yesterday with the launch of the official website at

The Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with the Giant event on September 19, 2010 will feature a marathon of 26.2 miles, a half-marathon of 13.1 miles, and a 5 km race. The weekend will also include a Health & Fitness Expo, a pre-race Spaghetti Dinner, entertainment and activities around the city - along the racecourse, and at Marina Park. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to raise pledges for local charitable organizations.

Barry Streib, President and Chair of the Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with the Giant, a not-for-profit corporation says, “We believe that this event will provide numerous benefi ts to our community by encouraging an active and healthy lifestyle, generating economic stimulus, increasing tourism, and fostering collaboration between community groups.”

The course will combine Thunder Bay North’s urban, park, and residential settings into a unique experience for participants. Runners will be treated to a spectacular view of the Sleeping Giant on their sprint to the finish down Red River Road. Half marathoners will circle the route once while full marathoners will complete the route twice. A full map of the course is available on the website.

“An event of this magnitude cannot happen without the support of the community,” says Streib. “We will be actively seeking support from the business community and from enthusiastic volunteers to assist in making the weekend a success.”

The Thunder Bay Marathon – Miles with the Giant’s mission is to create a world class marathon offering a fast, challenging course, attracting both elite and recreational runners and walkers, and a series of associated events to encourage community and corporate involvement, with a single common thread - a love of wellness and the sport of running.

For more information on getting involved as a runner or volunteer, please visit or visit their Facebook group at:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tourism Thunder Bay Recognized by the Economic Development Association of Canada with a Pair of Marketing Awards.

Vancouver, British Columbia - September 20th, 2009.

Tourism Thunder Bay pleased to announce that it is the recipient of two Canada Marketing Awards presented at the 2009 Economic Development Association of Canada annual conference being held in Vancouver British Columbia on September 20th.

The awards recognise innovation in community marketing through Thunder Bay’s creative use of marketing tools to build awareness of the community, drive traffic to the city’s tourism website and engage partners using cost effective and unique methods

Specifically, Thunder Bay has won for the 2009 “Seven Days With the Giant” postcard campaign that saw thousands of postcard teasers distributed through visitor centers, campaign sponsors and outdoor retailers throughout Ontario and the U.S. Midwest to pique the interest of outdoor adventure seekers and encourage them to enter online to win a $20 000 outdoor adventure of a lifetime.

The city also won an award for its monthly tourism e-newsletter, a colourful and informative trip planning tool for visitors and residents alike. The e-news lists upcoming events, hotel packages and special rates and other tourism related information that Tourism partners can list for free.

In celebrating Vancouver’s hosting of both 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games as well as being the host city for the 2009 EDAC Conference, awards were presented in the form of gold medals.

Tourism Thunder Bay is proud to be a leader in effectively utilizing web based media tools to promote the city and integrating them with unique print media programs to extend the reach of our message through a wider range of tourism partners.” according to Paul Pepe, Manager of Tourism. “Receiving these two EDAC marketing awards is an honour and to be recognized by our economic development peers across Canada is the result of an extensive collaborative partnership involving our many tourism industry partners, Generator Advertising and the team at Tourism Thunder Bay.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

July U.S. Travel Number to Thunder Bay Continue to Show Optimism

Statistics Canada and the Canadian Border Services Agency have released the July 2009 travel statistics and we are pleased to see a continued pattern of U.S travellers entering Canada south of Thunder Bay increasing modestly over last year.

The number of U.S. Residents entering Canada by automobile at Pigeon River was 18,190 in July 2009, compared to 17,977 in 2008, a 1% increase over 2008.

While declines this year have been noted in day trips (3303 in 2008 to 2856 in 2009) and one night stays (722 in 2008 down to 667 in 2009), the growth has occurred in the two plus night travel markets which saw an increase from 13,952 in 2008 to 14,667 in 2009, an increase of 5%. The increase in longer stays is also important to note in that it increases the economic impact on the city and region with each longer stay. This also indicates that the travel was planned in advance of visitors leaving their homes rather than spontaneous day tripping.

Given the continued struggling North American economy and new Passport identification issues, these sustained travel patterns and areas of growth are an encouraging sign that shifts in tourism marketing towards U.S. experience based travel markets by Tourism Thunder Bay, OTMPC and other tourism partners are having an effect at countering the losses felt in other jurisdictions. Anecdotaly, we have heard of increased motorcycle and RV travel from area partners and believe these new touring markets represent the future growth potential for the city as part of the larger Lake Superior Circle Tour experience.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cruise Shipping By the Numbers

With the 12th and final visit to the city for the M.V. Clelia II for 2009 this morning, we are turning our efforts to making further capital improvements to the Pool 6 lands for the vessel's 2010 return for 10 new visits and working to attract other lines to visit the community.

The total economic impact of the Clelia II in the city is estimated at $600 000 to $650 000 in 2009 and while that seems incredulous for 12 days of visits as I have been publically challenged on, the reality is that cruise shipping delivers impacts far beyond the shore tour spending of each passenger.

In addition to admission to attractions, passengers shop in retail outlets such as local galleries, dine, take taxis or rent bicycles, Motor coaches are chartered to escort them to and from attractions and musical groups are hired to entertain disembarking passengers.

But the economic impact extends far further than just the passengers. Take into account that many of the vessel's 67 officers and crew depart the vessel to shop and pick up ships supplies like cleaners, paint, cooking utensils and food supplies. The vessel empties its refuse at Thunder Bay (one of the few ports capable of taking international ship waste), and companies that supply water, security services, tug and stevedore services are also employed by the vessel stops.

Add to this the planning, marketing and maintenance of the cruise vessel terminal, the capital improvements contracted out over the course of the year and the services of Customs, Immigration and Transport Canada officials. Crew members do change over while in Thunder Bay and they fly in and out of the city and stay at hotels.

On top of this is all of the federal and provincial sales taxes generated by the purchased services.

Finally, there is the multiplier effect. For every dollar generated in the city by the cruise vessel, those dollars recirculate within the community another .6 times as the businesses and employees of those businesses in turn, spend the money earned by providing services on other local goods and services.

When all of this is added together, the result is far more than the obvious visitor dollars. Its why the development of a long term cruise shipping strategy is so important to the city's economic future and why catering to the vessel owners, crews and passengers to the highest level of quality service is imperative.

Its been a lot of fun working with the Clelia's operators, crew and passengers and we've learned a lot about the cruise shipping industry and what they require to operate successfully and enjoy their time in the community. We can't wait to see them return to the City in 2010, to see the forward movement in the capital improvements at Marina Park and the investments being made to make them feel welcome for years to come.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Old Theatre Finds New Life as...a Movie Theatre

This past weekend, a new business opened up in the downtown Port Arthur core offering a new spin on a familiar architectural face.

The Paramount Theatre (, located at 24 South Court St, has reopened the second floor theatre (originally the balcony for the one screen venue) after a number of years laying dormant. Wiggles n Giggles, the popular indoor Children's play enter and a great attraction for area families in its own right, ( has and still does, occupy the main floor theatre. The Theatre, originally opened in 1948 has retained much of its architectural charm and the combination of family uses within the building are a welcome addition to the business core. It also strengthens the North Cores' place as a centre of cultural, entertainment and performing arts.

What makes the theatre unique is in the way its being programmed. They mix inexpensive admission ($3.50) to see watch the classics such as Casablanca, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds and modern popular classics including Legend and The Princess Bride. The center also offers live theatre for families and improv workshops, creating a flexible use space.

While aiming at the local market, there is no doubt that this concept will also add to the attractions in this community for visitors to enjoy as well. The more options exist in the city for visitors-even seemingly modest ones- the greater the chance of visitor retention and increased economic impacts. Hats off to the owners of the Paramount Theatre for bringing this idea online. Its great to see old architecture preserved and reprogrammed than torn down to make a parking lot.

To learn more about upcoming film and theatre events at the theatre, If you are wondering what your tourism business can do to help promote this, simply let your guests know about film and theatre showing options because with more of us acting like tour guides, the greater the economic benefit to the community.

Unique Culinary Spin Featured in Westjet's Up! Magazine

Building Thunder Bay as one of Canada's best- and hippest -outdoor communities to visit gives us a lot of material to work with, especially when courting new visitors who are looking for sustainable tourism experiences. Its also a chance for us to weave sustainable tourism experiences with more traditional urban experiences to create memorable vacations.

Working with Lois Nuttal at Lake Superior Visits (, a fun little package called "Loaves and Fishes" took on a life of its own this spring when former Senior Managing Editor of Up! magazine (, Eric Rumble, heard about it from me over coffee in Calgary. Eric loved the concept and had to write about it.

This 3 day epic adventure combines outdoor experiences, culinary and unique accommodation options to encourage visitors (and our tourism partners for that matter) to explore the city in exciting new ways. The core of Loaves and Fishes is essentially collecting local ingredients for your own dinner - even if your cooking skills involve burning water. A stay aboard the floating bed and breakfast and at the iconic McVicar Manor Bed and Breakfast, a lake superior salmon and trout fishing excursion with Archie's Charters (, visits to Thunder Oak Gouda (, Both Hands Bread and other local food producers fills ones' basket with fresh, locally made ingredients while taking in the city's iconic land and water scapes. The day ends at the spa while The chef's at Lot 66 ( ) cook it all up and pair it with worldly wines to create a memorable dining experience.

At the end of the day, Loaves and Fishes demonstrates creativity in product and experience development that consumers are looking for, weaves urban and outdoors together and builds upon our mandate to build Thunder Bay as a urban sustainable tourism leader.

Don't take my word for it. Read Eric Rumble's mouth watering take on it in the September edition of Westjet's ( Up! Magazine. You can read the online version on page 53 and 54 at:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How Will Greyhound's Departure Affect Local Tourism

With today's announcement that Greyhound Canada will discontinue service in Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba, there is some speculation on what this departure, and the removal of a traditional form of ground transportation, will have on the city.

While hard to pinpoint the exact numbers of travellers to the city who use Greyhound, the effect will be negligible for a number of reasons. Many of the people utilizing Greyhound through the city are doing just that - going through the city - and their stop here is only a matter of stretching for a few minutes, grabbing a meal and getting on with their journey. Those that do start or end their journey here are taking the bus because their point of origin is not serviced by air, that the bus is cheaper (in theory) than air or they are afraid to fly. Where we anticipate a reduction in visitation, albeit a minor one, is the youth budget cross Canada market. These groups are generally on a budget and have a big country to explore so they won't stay in the city that long, nor leave a large economic impact. That said, the local industries that I predict may be affected by this travel segment would be the hostels, basic level accommodation providers and in some cases, even campgrounds.

The air corridor and fear of flying reasons are both sound reasons but on the topic of expense, a look at the Greyhound website shows 14 day advance bookings at $93.75 each way from Toronto and a last minute non refundable ticket at $195.10. A refundable ticket will set you back $216.10 each way. These rates are not that much less than advance airfares on the three major Canadian airlines that service the Thunder Bay to Toronto corridor and add to that the 2 hour travel time by air versus the 24 hour travel time by bus, the time saving alone is worth the extra airfare cost.

Given the emphasis we have placed on the motor coach attraction market, our focus has been on the specialty firms that offer packaged destination experiences and not scheduled transportation carriers like Greyhound. In fact, we see those charter operators continuing to serve Thunder Bay and some that provide trans Canada touring routes could even pick up some of the slack albeit a minimal amount. With respect to Tourism Thunder Bay's marketing focus, most of our efforts in the leisure market caters to the independant adventurer, arriving by car, RV or motorcycle. Our corporate market caters to regional auto travel or air travel and our sport tourism markets will generally utilize charter coaches or air travel.

However, I don't see the absence of bus travel to and through Thunder Bay lasting long at all. Within the city we have 4 great locally owned motor coach operators. Caribou Coach ( has already assumed previously abandoned Greyhound lines extending from Fort Frances to Hearst and is growing to meet growth opportunities in the charter field. Other local players include Winning Streak Charters (, Norcan Tours ( and Happy Time Tours ( While there is no telling, who, if any pick up the routes, the opportunity could exist for a local or regional solution to link Saskatchewan and Southern Ontario.

The bottom line is, while a concern for those in rural Northern Ontario, the departure of Greyhound will not have a huge or lasting negative impact on tourism within the city of Thunder Bay. If efforts to restore a traffic corridor were to be undertaken through the region, I'd rather see efforts made towards the return of passenger rail.