Tuesday, March 31, 2009

February Terry Fox Visitor Center Numbers are In

February numbers are in and despite the challenging economy, visitation appears to be holding its own. February 2009, saw a slight increase in visitation to the Terry Fox Visitor Center. The centre reported 648 registered visitors, an increase from 635 in February 2008. Our door counters, however, reported a slight decrease to 910 users from 975 in 2008.

More people stopped to look for information while fewer stopped to simply use the washrooms. Given that the center has two separate entrances and that transient travellers often stop to use the washrooms, the door counter numbers provide an accurate asseement of building users. However, the registrations are from visitors who have come into the visitor center area and spoken with our Visitor Services representatives.

Here's the performance by the numbers.

Registered visitors 648
  • Canadian - 552
  • U.S. - 86
  • Overseas - 10
email inquiries - 193

telephone inquiries - 29

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What the 2009 Ontario Budget Means for Tourism

The 2009 Provincial budget rolled out last Thursday and included, as expected, a significant deficit spending program to help the Provcince through tough times.

There's some good news on the tourism front in all of this. The massive infrastructure spending program is a start and improvements to municipal and regional roads and other projects could lead to improvements in visitor experiences to our community. Locally, the Ministry of Tourism's Fort William Historical Park will see $8 million in capital improvements over the next three years and although it is not certain if this is additional investment or part of the larger infrastructure budget, its good news for the attraction and the city. We have to remember that we can't build the entire Northern Ontario tourism economy around one attraction or experience and hopefully there will be investments made in other public and private sector attractions to help build critical mass within the region and develop experiences that cater to a wider audience.
The bigger announcement, however, is the creation of a new destination marketing fund. While details are thin on the source of revenue, it is likely they will come through an increase in the Provincial accommodations sales tax, currently at 5%. This move is essentially the implementation of a Province wide legislated destination marketing fee (DMF). I am in favour of the destination marketing fee and they have, in other communities, raised tourism marketing budgets substantially. Sault Ste Marie, Duluth, Toronto, Dryden and Winnipeg all have DMFs and they can, if re-invested wisely-increase tourism marketing and product development. The fact that Thunder Bay has not had one has put us at a competitive disadvantage against other communities for years.

The resistance by the industry locally has been due to a number of reasons. These include uncertainty of whether the funds collected will be reinvested entirely in tourism or used for wider city services, voluntary collection programs that benefit properties that don't collect it, fear that customers will turn away because they have to pay it and a general perception that commercial property taxes should pay for municipal tourism marketing. They are valid concerns but given the fact that hundreds of other communities collect them successfully means that they do work. The arguments against it all have solutions.

Having this legislated at the Provincial level is positive but there will be some details that have to be ironed out to alliviate the concerns this also brings. The move is positive in that every accommodation business has to collect, locally and across the Province, putting everyone on equal footing.

So what's the concern? Loss of local control on reinvestment. Wheras a locally collected DMF stays 100% in the community, the new collected funds going into the Provincial Pool means the risk of loss of local control increases substantially. There is a rationale that $1 million collected by Thunder Bay municipal properties locally means $1 million should flow back to the municipality to fund its tourism marketing.

The announcment states that the funds will be redistributed back to newly defined tourism regions. The proposed regions of the North in the Sorbera Report separate Northern Ontario into the Northeast and Northwest at Sault Ste Marie. These are two giant zones with a variety of communities and rural tourism experiences and there is a lot of debate going on as to whether these zones are too big. There are also a lot of small individual tourism marketing organizations and people are afraid of losing their jobs. The truth is, is that there is a lot of duplication in the delivery of tourism marketing in the North and it must be streamlined.

Where today's announcement gets interesting is that, just month's ago, the Sorbera report, a great blueprint for the future of the industry, states that a Province wide DMF could collect upwards of $100 million annually. Thats significantly higher than the $40 million reinvestment in today's budget. Assuming that the balance , $60 million, will be used for Province wide marketing that could bring increased benefit. However, it should not be a complete replacement for tourism marketing allocations presently asigned to province wide marketing efforts. We have to remember that there are tens of thousands of attractions, restaurants, festivals and retails involved in the tourism economy that collect PST and pay Provincial taxes. As a result, a proportion of what they pay should be redirected back into Proivincial tourism marketing and Ontario must remain a financial partner in the program.

So what's my overall assessment? These are a few positive developments and I for one, am pleased to see the results of the Sorbera report already being acted upon. However, the announcment is the easy part. Implementing these programs will take an emmense amount of industry input and co-operation to ensure the benefit spreads across the entire regional industry equitably.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

January U.S. Visitation Stats Released

Canada Border Services has released their January 2009 Pigeon River U.S. visitation statistics and while dissapointing, they are reflective of the state of the U.S. economy and in particular, the post Christmas season which is traditionally slower. While the fourth quarter of 2008 saw a 5.5% increase in U.S. traffic to Thunder Bay, the first increases since 2002, the low Canadian dollar can be accredited to helping Minnesotans find Christmas shopping values here.

A total of 1503 U.S. residents crossed into Canada south of Thunder Bay, a drop of approximately 18% over January 2008 that saw 1838 residents crossing into Canada at the Thunder Bay entry.

Same day visits fared the best and only saw a 12% decline in travel while the 2 plus night stays dropped 25%. Northern Minnesota is feeling the U.S. economic decline and the January STR U.S. Hotel performance report certainly shows it with average declines of 10.5% over January 2008 and an industry average occupancy rate of only 45% (Smith Travel Research) Some juristictions have faced declines as high as 28% although we have not seen information specific to Northern Minnesota.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thunder Bay Welcomes Porter Airlines

One of our best tourism assets is the Thunder Bay International Airport Authority (http://www.tbairport.on.ca/). Of all Northern Ontario communities, Thunder Bay has the best airlift capacity, giving us an edge in promoting tourism, particularly the conference and sport segment. That asset is about to become even better with the recent announcment that Porter Airlines (http://www.flyporter.com/) will begin offering daily service between Thunder Bay and Toronto Island Airport starting June 26. Porter has announced three flights daily during the week and twice daily on weekends.
This addition is important on a number of different levels. Porter has a reputation of serving major financial and cultural centers including Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, New York, Chicago and Halifax. Being aligned with these cities through the common bond of Porter has fantastic potential to open up new markets. Just being in the same league with these other centers raises the profile of our fine city. This also extends our airlift capacity. Any one of us who flys in and out of the city knows exactly how full the aircraft are at the present time. Those who see this as the pie being split into more smaller slices could be accused of looking at the situation myopticly. We have a chance to grow the pie bigger, and ensure everyone benefits but it will take a collective efforts of all of us in the industry to grow the pie through innovative partnerships.

Porter will fill a niche and provide more options. I priced out one way Thunder Bay to Toronto fares today on their website and at $155 each way pre taxes and fees, its competitive and offers good value. In my travels, I rotate around all of the airlines. and while I secretly have my favorite, the service and reliability across the board is pretty standard....and pretty good. I'm looking forward to adding Porter to my rotation.

I was at Seatrade Cruise Shipping Miami a week ago when I read the Porter news on my Blackberry and I have to say, the buzz within our conference delegation was immediate. In the context of the conference group, we discussed how Porter can be a marketing tool to attract high end expedition cruise ships to use Thunder Bay as a terminal to Lake Superior adventures, reaching large motivated cruise travel markets in some of North America's biggest centers. I have been getting emails from tourism colleagues across the continent this week about the Porter development. Good news travels fast and the industry recognizes what this means for our future.

Porter will also provide new opportunities for the mining and health care segments in downtown Toronto to get here more efficiently but it also can open up the affluent business and outdoor markets in Chicago and New York. Thunder Bay now stengthen's its position as a regional center and gateway to the outdoors and marketing to the affluent anglers, kayakers and wilderness enthusiests in these large markets can bode well for us with the right partnerships and tactical programs.

Having Ontario's third busiest airport means we are also well served by a number of international and regional carriers. Recent developments on the landscape with some of them will bode well for us as well. Air Canada Jazz (http://www.aircanada.com/), Westjet (http://www.westjet.com/)and Northwest (http://www.nwa.com/) connect us to the rest of the world effortlessly. Bearskin (http://www.bearskinairlines.com/) and Wasaya (http://www.wasaya.com/) are important regional carriers that support Thunder Bay's reputation as a regional hub for mining, government, First Nation, health sciences and education segments. The Northwest/Delta merger could open up new markets as will the code share agreement recently announced between Westjet and Southwest Airlines (http://www.southwest.com/)

As part of our shift to experience based marketing campaigns that target North America's largest travel segment - the outdoor adventure seeker- these developments across all of the airlines will help us reach those avid markets farther afield. We've seen increased interest from California, Florida and Texas, states that swelter in the summer months. We potentially could be capitalizing on our comfortable summer temperatures and abundant wilderness as well as targeting key health sciences, mining, education and sport tourism traffic selectively. Building editorial relationships with the airline's inflight and web based travel magazines allows us to reach new consumers easily and in a controlled way. Afterall most of us flip through the inflight magazine while we fly. It all starts with building awareness, than buzz, than making Thunder Bay a name people hear so often, they just have to visit.

What it really comes down to is looking at the opportunities that exist around us and developing new ways to capitalize on new markets. We need not look much further than our air partners to identify potential new economic developments. Welcome to Thunder Bay, Porter Airlines! We're looking forward to working with you.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tourism Ambassador Training Program Set to Launch this April

I have always said that delivering exceptional customer service is the key to succeeding in a competitive economic climate. Its up to everyone in an organization to put their best foot forward to impress clients. Happy clients are more likely to come back and spend more. Its that simple. As easy as it sounds, the delivery can be daunting and maintaining high levels even trickier. The other reality is that we all have limited time and budgets to upgrade skills, presenting another hurdle.
Creating positive first impressions on visitors to our city is part of an exceptional customer service attitude. Visitors taking a cab from the airport, eating at a local restaurant, checking into a hotel or fueling up are all likely to approach someone with a question or inquiry. It could be directions to an attraction, asking about live entertainment or simply wanting to know the major industries of the city. When people get a accurate answer to their question, delivered with a smile and enthusiasm for what the city offers, they will have a more positive experience.

Starting this spring, we will be offering a series of education workshops for front line service personell in the city, to encourage greater awareness of the city's attractions, events, legends, and economic initiatives that they can share with visitors to their establishments. We launched the business case March 17 to the Police Serivce Board and local media and were thrilled with the overwhelming positive response.

These condensed workshops, scheduled during weekdays, evenings and weekends, will provide basic customer service education with a general awareness of what makes Thunder Bay great. Participants will also receive copies of the Visitor Experience magazine, and quick fact sheets to take with them, providing them with simple tools to educate visitors. The program isn't some extensive, boring (and expensive) accredited and complicated educational program developed by teams of bureaucrats or academics. Its meant to minimize the time away from work for employees to be cost effective for employers, easy to follow, engaging and fun. And best of all, its being developed and delivered by folks who know the product and experiences best, Tourism Thunder Bay's team.

Participants will learn about major visitor attractions and locations, key annual events, local statistics and folklore and current positive economic developments such as health sciences, mining and manufacturing opportunities.

The free program will be delivered in a informal round table session at the Tourism Thunder Bay Administrative Center at Marina Park or can be brought to the workplace on request. We'll be posting the initial schedule of sessions soon and will be delivering the first programs sometime in late April. Our first focus will be providing training to local taxi drivers, than expanding the program to all interested workplaces and even citizens who want to brush up of city knowledge. The main goal of the program is to build pride in the city. Positive energy is infectious and more importantly, helps counter some of the negativity in the community, propagated by a small group of folks who just don't care enough to contribute to building the community.

Tourism Thunder Bay's responsibility is to market Thunder Bay as a great tourism destination for leisure, corporate, sport and group travel. However, it is everyones role in the community to be an ambassador and help share positive information and energy with visitors. It just makes good business sense.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thunder Bay Works the Crowd at Seatrade 2009

Seatrade Cruise Shipping Miami 2009 (http://www.cruiseshipping.net/) has come and gone and for the second year in a row, Tourism Thunder Bay had an enhanced presence at the world's largest gathering of cruise shipping industry decision makers.

As part of the 25 member Great Lakes Cruising Coalition or GLCC (http://www.greatlakescruisingcoalition.com/), I attended this year's event for the second year in a row, bringing a dedicated Lake Superior flavour to the exhibition. This year, I joined the Executive Director of the GLCC, Stephen Burnnet, and fellow directors from both Canadian and U.S. ports to sell the Great Lakes as a new and exciting destination for cruise lines always looking ahead to develop new itineraries.

The weeklong event culiminated with a reception and dinner at Miami Beach's Delano Hotel, hosted by the GLCC and sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, that attracted 12 vessel owners and tour operators. This dinner allowed us to build new relationships with qualified and interested vessel operators and gave us all time to sell the lakes in a informal and relaxed setting. We're looking forward to following up with these interested parties throughout the coming year.

Thunder Bay was also profiled as an up and coming destination in the Seatrade edition of Cruise North America magazine and a picture of our new Pool 6 cruise ship dock was featured (with your's truly kayaking adjacent to it). This exposures helps increase our profile and ensure we remain part of the group leading the charge to bring cruising to the Great Lakes.

For Tourism Thunder Bay, our involvement in the GLCC is a long term strategic investment to attract an affluent niche experience seeking market. With two vessels, including Travel Dynamic's MV Clelia II (http://www.traveldynamicsinternational.com/) scheduling 12 stops in the city in 2009, the direct and induced economic impact of these vessels will be in excess of $523 000. Working to bring the vessels here and keeping the operators satisfied takes a lot of effort and over 40 local businesses, many small operations, benefit economically. In fact, despite the vessels only being in port a total of 12 days, the financial impact spread across the tour operators, visitor attractions and vessel support services will create almost 2 full year equivilants of employment. While that doesn't seem like a lot, every job counts.

An increased presence at industry venues like Seatrade serve other important functions that align with our tourism strategy. Focusing on industry forums rather than consumer shows allows us to work on partnerships that could bring hundreds, if not thousands of visitors into the city through one or several group operators whereas through consumer shows, where thousands of people come through the door and great efforts are made to bring visitors to the community two or three at a time.

Placing greater focus on the experience seeker is a key change in our marketing strategy, and increases the likelyhood of success as well. Seventy five percent of travellers choose a destination based on whole or in part on the experience they are looking for and not the destination. Building itineraries and services to attract even a small share of the multi billion dollar cruising market provides greater opportunities to connect with potential new visitors and raise the profile of Thunder Bay across a wider global audience. Cruise shipping has a sexiness to it and being a port of call only elevates our community's reputation as a modern progressive city and must see destination.

I believe Lake Superior is as exotic as the Galapagos Islands for the right cruise operator and believe Thunder Bay has the strategic advantages and assets to be positoned as a cruise terminal for the smaller expedition class of cruise ships. The vastness of the lake, a variety of ports and shore activities around it, and unique selling propositions such as the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation area help define the product. The city's port and airport infrastructure give us great airlift and vessel servicing capabilities, making for an ideal opportunity to develop new economic opportunities for the community and region.

Its not a quick win and with cruise lines looking 3-6 years out for new vessel deployment opportunities, the work we do now will take time to materialize. However as I like to say, "There are two good times to plant a tree. 20 years ago and today."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bundling Experiences Caters to Consumers

Tourism Thunder Bay has seen a huge increase in its web based media presence in the past year with two significant developments undertaken in just the past two months.

The release of the new http://www.northernontario.travel/ web portal provides us the opportunity to manage the content relevant to our city. We've been able to upload pictures, itineraries, bundles and testimonials, showcasing the variety of experiences that exist within and outside of the city. We're posting new suggested itineraries weekly, suggesting a core activity, adding complimentary activities, than throwing in a culinary and accommodation suggestion to make it easier for consumers to find a memorable vacation experience. We've been developing the suggested bundles in house as well as accepting those from our partners.

We'd like this to evolve into a fuller collaborative marketing approach and welcome suggestions from our attractions, culinary, event and accommodation partners. Its an incredibly simple process and takes only minutes. Simply write down your attraction, a couple of similar or complimentary attractions, a culinary (restaurant, farmer's market, etc) and a accommodation (hotel, B and B, campsite, RV park, etc), email it to our content manager, (ebrewer@thunderbay.ca) and we'll post it to the portal. We may tweak and edit it a little but its essentially a very simple process that puts our partners in greater control of the content and gives us new experiences to showcase.

We're also always looking for photography from our partners as well to update our library. You can send photos (action shots are always great) to us via email or post them to the MyTBay.ca portal, from where we pull a lot of our new marketing images. The pic in this article was submitted to us via MyTBay.ca. Taken at the 2008 Wake The Giant Wakeboard festival, this type of pic showcass our city in a whole new dimension.

With our launch of the new http://www.visitthunderbay.com/ web site, we're encouraging new and existing tourism providers to take advantage of the opportunities, both free and paid advertising, to promote business on Thunder Bay's official and most comprehensive tourism site. With over 421 000 unique visitors and 16 million hits in 2008, the site is an excellent venue to promote tourism events, attractions, culinary and accommodation organizations cost effectively.

These are great tools that help drive information onto the screens and into the minds of potential visitors in a collaborative, cost efficient partnership approach. Feel free to browse both site, come up with some content and send it over to us.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thunder Bay's Winter Experiences Gain Increased Media Traction with CNN

The other night, as I was sitting in my kitchen watching the blizzard whip its way down Wolseley Street, I saw a lone cross country skier gliding down the middle of Ruttan and I thought "Wow, Thunder Bay has some fantastic winter visitor experiences" and those of us who live here all agree. However, the challenge has always been matching these niche winter experiences with the right motivated travel market.

How many of us in the local tourism industry have actually tried snow mobiling, ice climbing, dog sledding and kite boarding on a frozen lake? What about our downhill and cross country skiing opportunities at our doorstep finishing off with a sauna and a fantastic meal at Caribou, Bistro One, Masala or the multitude of other fantastic eateries? The truth is, we take it for granted but people the world over are looking for this. The solution is to match our experiences with the experience seekers through the appropriate media channels.

Our leisure market has always been focused on the summer "warm season" experiences and our winter focus has shifted to convention and sport tourism development and promotion. However, a growing number of high quality winter experience retailers and providers are emerging on the local and regional landscape and giving us new story ideas to pitch to travel media.

One of my earlier recent blog posts talks about the huge media profile Thunder Bay's winter culture has been generating and its gotten even better. CNN's Travel section has provided additional coverage for the original Coastal Living magazine's online article regarding Thunder Bay's nordic culture, specifically, our iconic Hoito and sauna "lifestyle". Have a read of the article here. http://www.cnn.com/2009/TRAVEL/getaways/03/12/thunder.bay.canada/index.html?eref=rss_travel. This particular article was a collaborative effort and great thanks have to go out to Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership's Helen Lovekin ( www.ontariotravel.net) and Lake Superior Visit's Lois Nuttal ( www.superiorvisits.com ) for their roles in helping bring this exciting piece to the forefront and showing Larry a "finntastic" time in Thunder Bay.

In meeting with a record number of travel media in 2008, we were able to pitch a variety of story concepts to them and the outdoor experiences resonated extremely well. Writers want to cover the "off the beaten path" experiences more and more. At a time when environmental sustainability is a key issue in our culture, marketing outdoor experiences makes good business sense, even for an urban center the size of Thunder Bay. The articles we have seen have done a fantastic job of weaving our unique urban cultural, accommodation and culinary experiences with the outdoors, ensuring increased economic impacts for the community partners embracing this new direction.

Thunder Bay's profile as a culturally diverse hip city with a great urban "vibe" is catching on and is a major component of our marketing strategy across all segments. People don't just want to have leisure experiences in an interesting and attractive setting. They also want to meet and participate in sports as well. It is going to be great seeing more and more winter packages, itineraries and bundles develop between hotels, restaurants and attractions over the next year, showcasing an even greater width of fantastic destination experiences.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

VisitThunderBay.com Grows Again.

Since launching our most recent incarnation of our tourism website a little over two years ago, we've been gathering input from our partners and visitors on how to make it an even better marketing tool. Last year saw over 421 000 unique visitors to our site representing over 16 million "hits" and 48 000 downloaded copies of our Experience Thunder Bay visitor magazine.

Well, today, two years of research and development has resulted in the birth of a brand new healthy bouncing baby website!

The new VisitThunderBay.com is part of the City of Thunder Bay's comprehensive online web redesign to provide a user friendly portal for citizens, visitors and the business community to find information about the city in a fast, efficient and comprehensive platform. VisitThunder

Bay.com is the new main call to action for visitors seeking information on the city and is driven by a comprehensive consumer researched multi media marketing campaign that includes experience based print media, select industry showcases, unique contest based campaigns, online marketing, video and an aggressive earned travel media program.

Oranges and yellows, representing fun and enjoyment, are prevalent in the look of the new site, accentuated with pictures submitted through the MyTBay campaign. The new look is modern, fresh and speaks to an enhanced Superior By Nature brand that positions Thunder Bay as one of Canada's great outdoor cities for leisure, conference, group travel and sport tourism travellers. Raising the profile of the city by weaving our world class outdoors with a rich urban cultural experiences including iconic attractions and events and a fantastic culinary reputation.

Most notable is that the site is cleaner and crisper, leading with a brand new tourism promotional video on the header. The navigation buttons have been simplified along the left hand side for ease of searching. Enhanced attractions, events calendar, industry news and sport tourism segments provide access to more information than ever before and translation tabs into French, Finnish, German, Italian and Spanish. the site also features expandable font sizes and is fully accessible to visitors with visual and hearing impairments. New content management processes will allow us to update, change and delete information much more efficiently than with the old site.

The site links more seamlessly into the City's other website segments, providing visitors easier access to learn about the city's living, business and municipal government environments. The site continues our leading edge web marketing presence, supported by our social media and blogs.

I'd like to encourage our tourism partners to help contribute to our site and give it an even greater online presence. You are welcome to utilize the tourism promotional video free of charge on your website or have it play on screens in your establishment. We are also encouraging our partners to contribute content and pictures promoting special rates, packages and events to us that we will upload on both the new VisitThunderBay.com and northernontario.travel web portals. Its as simple as putting it in an email and sending it to myself or a member of the team. To add or change content specific to your business, please contact our web site content manager, Erin Brewer at ebrewer@thunderbay.ca.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Thunder Bay's own March Madness Media Spotlight

Thunder Bay has received a hefty dose of national media this past month with fantastic web, print and television coverage, some of which has focused on Thunder Bay's summer and winter activities, culture and culinary experiences. In all the media coverage, one theme has emerged, Thunder Bay is a culturally rich city with a "vibe" on the doorstep of some of the world's best outdoor experiences.

The March 3 episode of CBC's Rick Mercer Report provided a great 8 minute clip of Rick experiencing some of Thunder Bay's great winter traditions, ice climbing, the art of sauna and breakfast at the Hoito. The segment painted a picture of Thunder Bay as one of Canada's great outdoor winter cities and a community that embraces its ethnic culture, the outdoors and the seaon that many take for granted. Go to www.cbc.ca/mercerreport to watch the clip.
En Route, Air Canada's inflight magazine featured Thunder Bay's off the beaten path winter getaways, including pond skating, dog sledding and ice climbing, than weaving them into some of our great cultural winter activities, including, once again, the Hoito, as well as a tour of the Anihnawbae Art Gallery. The article appears in both the print and on-line editions and can be read at http://enroute.aircanada.com/en/articles/thunder-struck

Coastal Living magazine, in its online edition, published a story about Thunder Bay's connection to Lake Superior, and in particular, winter activities in and around the lake. Once again, Thunder Bay's finnish culture is presented front and centre. Coastal Living attracts a wide affluent market around North America and to be presented is a coup for the city. go to http://www.coastalliving.com/travel/other-coasts/canadas-hot-spot-00400000040542/
And thats not the end of it. Thunder Bay's iconic Sleeping Giant made the cover of This month's Canadian Geographic Travel. The cover article, featuring Canada's top 25 provincial parks, included both Sleeping Giant and Quetico. This attention and the fact that Thunder Bay is a gateway to both parks, helps solidify our "Superior By Nature" brand and positions us, once again, as one of Canada' s great outdoor cities. Visit http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/travel/travel_magazine/mar09/

Tourism Thunder Bay Expands Upon its Successes for 2009

Tourism Thunder Bay has undertaken a fundamental shift in the development and deliver of tourism marketing and product development over the past two years, in alignment with the new Northern Ontario Tourism strategy. Our 2007, 2008 and 2009 marketing plans have been developed entirely on consumer research, including local market research and travel data, StatsCan data, Ministry of Tourism Travel Motivation Surveys (TAMS). The results have been marketing campaigns that have focused on the bigger picture – of positioning Thunder Bay as one of Canada’s Great Outdoor Cities around a strengthened “Superior By Nature” theme. Focus has been undertaken to raise the profile of the city as a major urban centre on the edge of world class wilderness experiences, based on TAMS data that shows outdoor activities as the #1 travel motivator for North Americans. Leading with the City’s connection to the national and provincial parks and Lake Superior is also essential at a time when sustainable tourism is becoming more relevant to travelers across all segments.

With the industry leading “Seven Days With the Giant” Partnership in 2008, the city successfully attracted increased consumer attention by weaving outdoor experiences with a wide range of urban attraction, accommodation, events and culinary activities. Raising the overall profile of the city through unique campaigns and increased media attraction has been essential to repositioning the city as a destination of choice for the leisure, group travel, corporate and sport markets.

Tourism Thunder Bay Long Term Strategic Development

With the completion and release of the Premier Ranked Tourist Destination Framework and the Ontario Competitiveness Strategy as well as the Rosehart Report and Common Voice tourism reports prepared in 2008, Tourism Thunder Bay will be embarking, beginning in spring 2009, of a long term strategic foundation, encompassing and implementing recommendations outlined in various provincial strategic reports. Tourism Thunder Bay is planning an “Open Source” industry planning session in May of 2009 to solicit constructive and progressive input into the long term focus of the department’s role as well as the overall local tourism industry in general.

Tactical Plan for 2009

Experience based print and web media in all segments (leisure, corporate, group and sport). We are pursuing new media buy outlets that combine web and print in key markets with high populations of avid and affluent travelers.

http://www.visitthunderbay.com/ is the city’s new tourism call to action. A completely new tourism web site will be launched March 11, 2009 and included easier accessibility and navigation capabilities. New content management processes allow for easy upload of current information and quick changes. The new website features rotating imagery and a newly commissioned tourism promotional video. The video will play online, distributed to event planners and is available free of charge to any community partner that wishes to help promote the city in their presentation or facility.

http://www.northernontario.travel/ Tourism Thunder Bay has a content management agreement with OTMPC to provide content upload to the new northern tourism portal. This recently launched site will have more content continuously added and works in collaboration with area partners. I encourage each hotel to develop packages and submit them to us for upload.

Visitor Experience Magazine- The second annual issue of the City’s tourism fulfillment guide was launched January 30, 2009 – three months sooner than in previous years The print and on-line magazine serves as a substantial trip planner and serves a number of markets

  1. Transient drive through markets seeking accommodation retail and culinary.

  2. Visiting Friends and Relatives market – with 28% of visitors in the city to visit friends and family, the magazines are available at key times per year in local outlets to help local residents plan their visitor’s stays.

  3. Visitor Centers – the magazine is available at over 250 key visitor centers in the region, on both the U.S. and Canadian side

  4. Consumer show distribution – an agreement with OTMPC and Ontario Parks sees the magazines distributed at over 20 sport and consumer shows in North America

  5. Convention Delegate packages

For 2009 Market Segment Focus


Expansion of the Seven Day’s partnership with Ontario Parks and the local business community to promote Thunder Bay as a great outdoor community with a rich urban culture. The campaign strikes chords with avid outdoor markets, a market still likely to travel in difficult economic times.


Tourism Thunder Bay has disbanded its partnership Ontario’s North with respect to the corporate market, investing additional local resources to market the city as a key destination for conferences. The past partnership saw Thunder Bay share leads with Sault St Marie and Sudbury, effectively competing destinations for corporate travel. Tourism Thunder Bay is focusing on key corporate markets of Mining, First Nation, Health Sciences, Education and Government, all sectors that have a relevant reason to travel to and meet in the city. The city has also been working with event planners to develop local culinary and attractions options for planners to increase economic impacts for the community and provide unique selling advantages for the community when bidding on events.

Group Tour

Tourism Thunder Bay maintains active participation in Ontario’s North with respect to promoting group travel to the motor coach market. Efforts will continue in 2009 towards building this and new partnership are currently being negotiated with Explore Minnesota to build cross border group travel itineraries that focus on Lake Superior Circle Tour.

Other segments on group travel include:

Motorcycle and auto club touring (followed by RVs in 2010). Tourism Thunder Bay is currently leading the development of a touring strategy for Northern Ontario. The results of this study will be complete in 2010.

Cruise Shipping- Tourism Thunder Bay expect approximately 1200 passengers visiting the city on two separate vessels that will make a combined 12 visits in the community in 2009. We are working with 9 other cruise lines for future year’s itineraries.

Sport Tourism

One of the areas getting the greatest attention is the Sport Tourism segment, seen as key to building the city’s year around tourism economy. A new sport tourism strategy was released in late 2008 that sees more efforts put into the ongoing promotion of the city as a sport tourism destination, great resources for biding and a sport tourism marketing event budget to assist community groups in marketing major events. The City is currently working on bids to host the 2011 Ontario Winter Special Olympics, the 2011 RBC Cup (Junior A Nationals) and the Can Am Fire and Police Games. The city is also involved in the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance and will continue to meet with national and Provincial sport agencies in April 2009 at their annual congress.


Tourism Thunder Bay continues to focus efforts on attracting travel media to expand the positive profile of the city in select experience and geographic based markets. Preference is given to experienced and reputable media affiliated with major Canadian and international media channels that have a web and print presence.