Sunday, April 26, 2009

Showcasing Thunder Bay at Midwest Mountaineering

Thunder Bay is making waves in the Twin Cities outdoor community this week. Midwest Mountaineering's Spring Expo is the largest paddle sport and camping show in Minnesota, attracting some 12-15000 visitors over three days this past weekend. It also attracts top outdoor journalists and over 77 other exhibitors from around the world.

The event has been our chance to meet with potential consumers, pitch stories to travel media and network with some of the other partners to build some unique cross marketing initiatives. I'm at the show personally this year because Tourism Thunder Bay is one of the event sponsors and I'm speaking on the City's Seven Days with the Giant promotion on the 26th on the University of Minnesota campus. Catch me at 12:30 pm on the 26th on the Mississippi stage at the Humphery Centre on the U of M campus.

We don't do many consumer sport shows because they are expensive, time consuming and hard to track results. We do, however, explore new opportunities such as Midwest Mountaineering's Expo, where we can reach educated and affluent travel segments - in this case, outdoor seekers- who are more likely to travel during tough economic times and who can influence their professional peer groups.

This year, we have s significant Canadian contingent at the show and in addition to ourselves, we are sharing floor and presentation space with Ontario Park's Northwest zone, Wabikimi Wildwaters and Beyond the Giant Nature retreat. Regionally, we're also networking with our friends in Grand Marais and Lutson/Tofte to cross promote each other. We're hearing very positive feedback from the hundreds of consumers we've spoken to in the past two days and its encouraging to note that many of them have their passports already in advance of the June 1, 2009 deadline.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Some Things To Think About on Earth Day

Today, April 22nd, is Earth Day and with that a lot of organizations are celebrating by observing sustainable environmental practices. Some do it all the time, and some do it once a year. On Earth Day.

Last Fall, I was invited to speak to the annual gathering of the International Eco and Sustainable Tourism Society on how Thunder Bay, a major city of 120 000 people, embraces the outdoor environment in our marketing. Its a remarkably unique approach for a major city and one that has been winning praise in an international tourism arena. I wasn't quite sure what the organization stood for and wondered if I would stand out. I like driving around aimlessly in my convertible on sunny Sunday afternoons and own, admittedly, every gas powered garden tool ever produced. The principles of the promotion of eco and sustainable tourism are simply this.
"The promotion of tourism that conserves the environment and promotes economic and social well being of local populations." When one looks at this in the tourism and community development fields, it encompasses so many things we can do to meet the definition.

Managing a sustainable tourism economy is essential to success today. Employing sustainable practices within organizations is good for the environment and its good for business. In the accommodation sector for example, low flush toilets and high efficiency lighting are the standard norm and result in significant operational savings for operators annually. Sustainability comes in many creative forms and its easy for everyone to do their part. It can mean removing bottled water where quality potable tap water is available. It means replacing those small individual creamers with refillable jugs of cream. It means installing programmable thermostats, using solar powered exterior lighting and maintaining gardens and green spaces. I have even had some great discussions with snowmobile and ATV enthusiasts about employing sustainability principles without having to give up their passion for their sports. sustainability doesn't have to mean we give up or destroy alements of our tourism industry, just that we undertake our operations in a way that is efficient and looks to preserving the future of it.

Sustainable tourism also means supporting local artisans. Everyone knows I like my food. Everyone likes food. Promotion of locally produced, grown and raised meats and produce is one of the biggest things local tourism industry can do. Locally produced foods does not have to travel far to reach the plate, meaning less fuel is burned. local foods are often produced with far less pesticides, if any at all. Local food often tastes, just a little better. One need only visit one of the City's two farmers market to see the plethora of local producers and savour some of the unique culinary ingredients produced in our own backyards by our own neighbors. Thunder Oak Gouda and Both Hands Bread are two of my favorites and news this week that local beef producers are branding their product as locally made is a fantastic addition.

I read an letter this morning by someone complaining that locally produced food is priced uncompetitively. That argument misses the point behind the production, promotion and consumption of local food and are ignoring the benefits of locally produced foods and the production realities of small operations. More importantly, they are confusing value with cheapness. In my travels, I don't find locally produced food expensive at all. I find, like thousands of others, fantastic value in the experience of going to the source, picking out my meal for the evening, talking with the producers themselves and creating something special for my family knowing that I'm serving something healthy and is sustaining local small businesses.

I'm going to be blogging on sustainable tourism on an ongoing basis, sharing success stories from partners and showcasing new trends in promoting a sustainable industry.

...and as for my garage full of fuel burning garden tools, I don't fire them up nearly as often as I used to.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Building Canada Fund Announces New Program for Tourism Infrastructure.

Federal and Provincial Ministers responsible for Infrastructure have announced the opening of intake 2 of the Communities Component of the Building Canada Fund (BCF) and launched the application process for the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. The deadline for applying for both programs is May 1, 2009.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has been advised that the application process for the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund is very simple and that the application process for Intake 2 of the BCF Communities Component has been further streamlined. Municipalities can apply for up to 3 projects under the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. Municipalities with populations under 100,000 can apply for the BCF Communities Component.

Note that for both programs, projects must be completed by March 31, 2011.

Municipalities will be required to attest that the projects would not have been built over the next two construction seasons without the federal and provincial funding. Both programs require a one-third municipal financial contribution.

A program guide and a very short application form for Stimulus Funding can be accessed at: You can also access application forms for the Communities Component of the Building Canada Fund through this web site. Municipalities are encouraged to contact the Canada–Ontario Infrastructure Secretariat at 1-866-306-7827 to get a username and password to access the on-line application form.

According to the letters, successful proponents will be notified quickly so that construction may begin. Financial agreements will be signed between the Province of Ontario and municipalities. Prior to final approval of funding and the conclusion of an agreement with the Province, the Municipality must provide proof of Council support for the approved project and the municipal contribution.

Eligible Categories:

The following are eligible project categories for Local Government Assets under the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund:
· Water and Waste Water Infrastructure
· Public Transit Infrastructure
· Local Road Infrastructure
· Disaster Mitigation Infrastructure
· Solid Waste Management Infrastructure
· Brownfield Redevelopment Infrastructure
· Cultural Infrastructure
· Airport Infrastructure
· Port and Cruiseship Infrastructure

· Municipal Buildings
· Parks and Trails

While new construction which can be completed by March 31, 2011 is eligible, the Governments of Ontario and Canada advise that existing asset rehabilitation is the primary focus of the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund program.

Under the BCF Communities Component Intake Two there are 18 project categories:
· Brownfield Redevelopment
· Collaborative Projects
· Connectivity And Broadband
· Core National Highway System
· Culture
· Disaster Mitigation
· Drinking Water
· Green Energy
· Local And Regional Airports
· Local Roads
· Public Transit
· Recreation *New*
· Shortline Railways
· Short-Sea Shipping
· Solid Waste Management
· Sport
· Tourism

· Wastewater Infrastructure

The “Recreation” category is a new addition under Intake Two of the BCF Communities Component. Eligible municipalities with populations under 100,000 continue to be able to submit one application to this program intake.

For further information, municipalities should review the web site or contact the Canada-Ontario Joint Secretariat at:
Building Canada Fund, Communities Component Joint Secretariat1 Stone Road West, 4th Floor NW, Guelph, Ontario N1G 4Y2Phone: 1-866-306-7827, Fax: 519-826-4336, Email:

Monday, April 20, 2009

March Hotel Performance

HVS, part of the Smith Travel Research group, has released its March Canadian lodging performance statistics for the Thunder Bay area. The month showed encouraging local performance in both the occupancy rates and revenue per room. March occupancy rates averaged 63.3%, posting an 11.13% gain over March 2008. Revenue per Room (REVPAR) posted gains of 14.65%, finishing the month off at an average revenue per room rate of $59.00

Strong corporate and spring break regional family traffic is being credited for the strong month, a remarkable achievement considering the lacklustre performance of other juristictionsin in both Canada and the U.S.

Full national lodging performance can be found at:

University of Waterloo Parks Governance Study Underway.

Tourism Thunder Bay plays an important role in helping foster a wider range of community partnerships and some of our most important are with our educational institutions. The entire tourism industry has a role to foster growth in leadership opportunities for our regionla youth and to provide input into industry research that will improve our cometitiveness on the world tourism stage. As such, we are always pleased to provide a conduit to the industry to participate in collaborative research opportunities and connect the industry with educational resources.

Windekind Buteau-Duitschaever, an MA Candidate at the University of Waterloo's Department of Parks and Leisure Studies, is currently undertaking a study on Ontario Park's Governance model. This is the first study to ever examine five stakeholder groups perception of Ontario Parks Governance Model. The information provided will be of outmost importance for the process of determining the perceived level of good governance present in Ontario Parks management model. The results of the study will be shared with the research community and ultimately it may be possible to provide relevant advice to parks, recreation, and tourism professionals, elected officials, and policy makers. Please use the survey link below to begin completing the survey.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lake Tourism Conference Coming To Thunder Bay

We live on the shore of the world's greatest lake and its an integral part of our communty's marketing around the "Superior By Nature" brand. Its fitting that Thunder Bay is hosting the 4th annual International Lake Tourism Conference at Lakehead University. The event is being held from June 21-25, 2009.

Water is an essential attraction in building a successful tourism economy. However, its important to build it in a sustainable manner so that its there for future generations of visitors to enjoy. This conference, hosted by Lakehead University, ( provides a great international forum to discuss opportunities and challenges for lake tourism and will provide a great foundation for discussion and foster a greater understanding on how we develop and manage the resources we are so gilfted to have as a visitor draw.

For more information on the conference, visit

Thunder Bay Does Well With Celebrate Ontario for 2009

Celebrate Ontario recently rolled out funding for the 2009/2010 fiscal year and a number of Thunder Bay events received welcome Provincial contributions that will help them grow and attract more visitors.

Thunder Bay Bluesfest, to be held July3-5 this year at Marina Park, received a little over $45 000. This iconic summer event, now in its 9th year, draws bands from across North America and fans from around the globe. What better way to spend a summer weekend in Thunder? For more information, visit

The Sleeping Giant Writer's Festival, now moved to its new home at Fort William Historical Park ( received approximately $33 000. This event has been drawing writers from further afield every year since its inception several years back. for more information, visit

The Sleeping Giant Loppet received $18 000. This iconic cross country ski race will be able to grow and reach new Canadian and U.S. ski enthusiasts. Visit to learn more about registeringfor the event in 2010.

The 2010 CIS Mens Univeristy National Hockey championships received $75 000 towards the second year of the event being held in Thunder Bay. Visit to learn more abou the event and the local Lakehead University hockey program.

Congratulations to all of the successful event organizers.

Finding New Opportunities in Sport Tourism

Sport tourism is big business in Canada and Thunder Bay is certainly seeing its fair share. Nationally, tens of thousands of events generate $2.4 billion...that's right, with a "B" nationally. Thunder Bay's share is approximately $31 million and accounts for 17% of our annual tourism industry.

Sport Tourism is also important in the development of a year around sustainable tourism industry. The reality is that our leisure season is primarily during the warm months. Sport tourism opportunities span the entire year and provide opportunities that benefit hotels, restaurants, retailers, service providers and attractions in the traditionally slower travel seasons.

Sport tourism is also a community collaborative effort. Our best partners are the individual sport organizations that champion for their own sports, leading bids and advocating within their own Provincial and National associations to bring events to Thunder Bay. It could not be done without them. Its important for the City, the organizations, hoteliers and others to continue to work as one cohesive unit to deliver the best possible returns.

The national and international events that we have a reputation for hosting certainly play a big part of increasing the City's profile as a destination of choice for hosting top notch events. However, events catering to all ages and skill levels across a plethora of sports and recreational activities help contribute to the local sport economy. Consider that the Ontario youth diving and swimming championships held back to back in the city in 2008 generated over $1.5 million alone in economic impacts, its easy to see how every sport tourism event helps our economy.

The City's new sport tourism policy places more effort and resources towards bidding on events that deliver the best return on the community's investment. With bid assistance, a new event central "one window" approach to helping community partners develop their sport tourism event and marketing assistance, we're moving forward to build upon an already successful track record.

Sport tourism is also less prone to economic downturns. People still play sports, they still compete and they still attend events. They may stay a little closer to home or be more selective about what they attend but they still participate.

Tourism Thunder Bay participated in the 2009 Canadian Sport Tourism Congress, the ninth annual gathering of National and Provincial Sport organizations and tourism industry officials. It was a three day event that provided professional development opportunities to encourage more success in bidding and hosting events, building new infrastructure and creative marketing approaches. The annual marketplace - the speed dating of the sport tourism world - allowed us to meet with representative of various sport tourism rights holders and pitch the city for 8 minutes each.

This year we met with 11 different Provincial and National groups including Volleyball, Curling, Football, Hockey, Water and Adventure sports, and Basketball, as well as the National Canada Games and Aboriginal Sports Circle organizations. We now have a better idea of a wide range of bid opportunities that can present themselves over the next 2-15 years.

Its also a chance to meet with other communities, to share challenges and successes and to learn best practices from each other. while we're all often competing for events against each other, there are plenty of opportunities to go around.

The presentations made by a variety of industry experts will be posted over the next little while on the CSTA website and I encourage you to follow the website and organization to pick up what we had a chance to learn.