Monday, May 25, 2009

Emerging Group Tour Markets Key to Building Leisure Traffic

Thunder Bay is fortunate to be situated on the world's largest lake and as such, is part of one of the continent's best driving routes and most spectacular boating experiences. With the individual leisure travel market becoming more challenging to attract, its important to harness our position the Lake Superior Circle tour to attract the emerging leisure markets-what I refer to as the semi independent group travel.

Simply put, these are the folks travelling by individual automobiles, motorcycles, RVs and boats but in groups-some numbering in the hundreds. Often these people belong formally, or informally to a group specific to RV, motorcycle brand or automobile style. We all see them throughout the summer months and we've been getting them here for years. In 2008, Thunder Bay played host to the Wally Byam Air streamers group, this year, a large group of U.S. RV owners and in 2010, the Miata Enthusiasts of Upper Peninsula (Michigan) will be bringing in excess of 30 cars to the city for two days. As a new owner of an older miata myself, I've quickly become immersed in the group ownership culture and have come to understand first hand, the economic impact these touring groups make on a region. The itinerary and pics from the 2005 run are available at for those interested. If you are a Miata owner, stay tuned as new information is posted on that site for the 2010 run.

On the motorcycle touring side, Larry Lage of Excalibur Motorcycle Works ( has been instrumental in helping us understand the motorcycle touring market and with respect to boating, we communicate with the Great Lakes Cruising Club ( to promote the area to the thousands of boaters who live around the lake and the tens of thousands who live elsewhere on the Great Lakes.

Opportunities exist to better target our marketing towards these groups, using both online social media as well as building partnerships with local enthusiasts groups who play host to these groups. Its something we have worked on in the past two years and will be doing so more formally in the future. Its good for local event organizers to know that bringing in groups often ensures special rates on hotel rooms, meals and attraction admissions can be offered by many local and area tourism partners.

Attracting these groups is important on a number of fronts. As previously mentioned, its easy to reach out to them AND we are on one of the best scenic touring routes in North America. However, those who motorcycle, RV or drive sports cars are more likely to be avid travellers. They seek out the driving experience, they love to socialize with like minded individuals and are more likely to travel even when the economy is weak. They are generally of a higher education, more affluent and adventurous. In our case, we have a lot of enthusiasts in the community who act as advocates and organizers, helping reach their peers across North America more directly than we can on our own.

Tourism Thunder Bay has been providing support to such local groups who host. For those who want to host groups, Tourism Thunder Bay provides magazines, delegate packages and even the use of our roll up displays to help promote the city. Our meeting and convention planner has even been known to help source out prizes for groups who set up gatherings here. The City's event central can help provide one stop shopping for event organizers with respect to information on road closure processes, permit requirements and even equipment the City of Thunder Bay can provide to event organizers.

For 2010 we are currently evaluating the implementation of a potential sponsorship program to help sponsor some of the financial costs of hosting motor touring groups in our city.

If you are a Thunder Bay or area motor touring enthusiast who wants to host a group here, feel free to contact Rose Marie Tarnowski, our Meetings and Convention Planner at and she will be happy to discuss venues, attractions and other related information.

photo courtesy of MEUP

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