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. This particular article was a collaborative effort and great thanks have to go out to Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership's Helen Lovekin ( and Lake Superior Visit's Lois Nuttal ( ) 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.

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