Wednesday, June 24, 2009

April Border Crossing Numbers Encouraging

The Canadian Border Services Agency has released its April 2009 border crossing statistics from Pigeon River and the numbers are encouraging.

While April is a slower month for US travel to Thunder Bay, April 2009 posted results of 2240 U.S. residents crossing into Canada south of the City compared to April 2008 that saw only 2085. This represents a modest 9% gain and that is important considering the state of the U.S. economy. Also contributing to this rise could be a favourable exchange rate of 24%, a "rush" to visit for non passport holders prior to the June 1st deadline and an increase in experience based marketing into the North shore communities, targeting the entertainment and culinary markets.

The year to date numbers to the end of April, however, are showing a modest decline of about 250 residents from 2008's 8779, with January being the hardest hit month for declines.
2008 2009
January 1883 1503
February 1924 1897
March 2932 2887
April 2085 2240

All things considered given the state of the U.S. economy, these numbers are comforting in that it shows that people are, overall, still travelling. The real state of the 2009 season will be revealed once the June and July travel numbers are released sometime mid fall.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Bit of Thunder Bay Flavour with Bobby Flay

Any good foodie knows the name Bobby Flay and for those culinary avids watching "Grill It" on the Food Network this past weekend, some of the flavours of Thunder Bay and region were showcased by someone familiar to those in the local outdoor community.

Anybody who watches outdoor television knows of Rugged Dude Carson - yes, that is his legal name!. R.D., to those of us that known him for years, has been a staple of the American outdoors media market for a few years and he hails right from Thunder Bay. You may have seen the "camo" truck around town or caught his show on the local CTV affiliate. His show has been picked up at various times by as many as 6 cable and satellite stations and his comedic style and down to earth approach to enjoying the outdoors has won him adoring fans, largely in the U.S.

So what do Bobby Flay and Rugged Dude have in common. Rugged Dude is someone that appreciates the culinary side of our fantastic wild fish and game and a couple of his recipes made the cut to be featured on last weekend's Grill It episode with R.D. himself cooking with the great chef. Stuffed whole Chinook Salmon, Venison chops with blueberry chocolate sauce and blueberry Bannock were all cooked and featured on the episode, showcasing the flavours of our back yard to the international audience.

As part of promoting sustainable tourism, encouraging the responsible harvesting, catching and preparation of local fish and meats combined with the use of local vegetables and herbs, cheeses and breads, helps showcase our unique culture and supports local farmers. Its great to see local tourism partners like R.D. having the passion and taking tit to levels that have given him, and us, a higher profile with one of the planet's most well known chefs and his loyal audience.

The catch the recipes or check out the episode online, click on and visit R.D.'s site at

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quetico Celebrates its Diamond Anniversary in 2009

Quetico Park is one hundred years old this year and Ontario Parks is celebrating with a year long roster of events to commemorate the milestone. For North American outdoors enthusiasts, Quetico is already a well known name and is about as great a wilderness paddling experience as you will find anywhere on the planet. Summer events will kick off June 12 in celebration of Canadian Rivers Day and there will be a number of events throughout the summer, both in the park and neighboring Atikokan (

The Park is also an important part of a bi national visitor experience as it connects with the Superior National Forest in Minnesota. The Heart of the Continent Partnership is a coalition that consists of land managers, along with stakeholders, that work together on cross-border projects to promote the natural health of the lakes and forests near the Ontario-Minnesota Border. To honour the partnership, and raise awareness, a canoe trip will weave in and out of Canadian and U-S waterways, with paddlers visiting several communities. Quetico Park will also see the return of their legendary Canoe Marathon, a two day round trip race from French Lake to Prairie Portage, that hasn’t taken place since the 1960’s.

Quetico Park is an asset that those of us in the Thunder Bay tourism industry don't really connect with as much as we should. despite it being 200 km away from the city, its an important part of the tourism economy we need to weave into our larger sustainable tourism strategy. Thunder Bay is a gateway to wilderness adventures, the single largest travel motivator in North America. Quetico's international reputation attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually and many of those need to come through Thunder Bay, either by road or air. Opportunities exist for Thunder Bay hotels, culinary providers, outdoor equipment outfitters and retailers, car rental firms and others to capture part of the market by encouraging visitors to consider Thunder Bay as their "base camp" before heading out to Atikokan and into the park.

Quetico has developed an incredible level of brand equity among the outdoor community, a demographic generally characterised as educated and more affluent. Quetico's name is attached to such products as canoes and even lifevests and is the subject of many, many books. Aligning Thunder Bay's image with that of Quetico helps raise our profile and opportunities exist, through passive and active cross promotion, to align their brand with ours. We have embraced economic, social and environmental sustainability as the cornerstone for moving our tourism industry forward and working with our iconic parks makes good sense all around. Parks lovers are also often people who plan conferences or particpate in organized sports. Building awareness with them on the liesure market may certainly help raise our urban profile for the conference and sport tourism markets as well.

Our organized parks systems have emerged as the major visitor attraction in the region. Consider that Quetico welcomed over 92 000 visitors in 2008 while Sleeping Giant saw over 57 000 and Kakabeka Falls over 283 000 and the importance becomes clear. Entities like Ontario Parks ( and Parks Canada ( are increasingly expanding their tourism visitor focus, recognizing the economic value and power of the experiences and geography they manage. In Thunder Bay, the successful realignment of our urban brand around Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is a prime example. The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation, whose boundary is a scant 15 miles from Prince Arthur's Landing is another gem that will increase our profile even more. Even our fantastic local parks - Chippewa, Centennial and Marina Park are all important elements in visitor attraction and retention and do, if partnered in the right context, deliver greater economic impacts for our local business community.

For more information on Quetico Park in general or the park's centennial celebrations, visit or

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tourism Thunder Bay Twitters

Tourism Thunder Bay has been utilizing social media as an integral part of our marketing strategy over the past two years, most notably through the Facebook and Blogger platforms.

We've added Twitter to our arsenal and have been utilizing it as a tool to promote the city and suggest attractions, events and packages to visitors, travel media and other industry partners. Travel media has been actively engaged in twitter as have major tourism organizations around North America. Tourism Thunder Bay is utilizing the Twitter platform to help promote our local tourism partners with direct web links back to their organizations.

Twitter is easy to set up and use and is only limited by the editorial creativity of the twitterer. Its a fantastic platform for the tourism industry to increase web buzz for events and attractions and to keep loyal consumer and partners up to date on your business's offerings

To follow us, go to

To learn more about Twitter and to set up your own account, visit

Parks Canada Posts New Career Opportunity

Parks' Canada has a lot of exciting things going on in and around the city lately as they increase their presence and awareness of the role of National heritage and natural environment parks. The announcement of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area in 2007 has created a lot of excitement about the growth and potential of the regional tourism industry in the long term.

Parks Canada has a career opportunity posted for an External Relations Officer to work out of Nipigon, with a focus on developing and executing communications and external relations strategies. The position is open to qualified candidates within a 160 kilometer radius of Nipigon. Its great to see new employment opportunities around the NMCA and related initiatives already taking shape.

Visit: for more information on this opportunity.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Eagle Ridge Trout Ponds Provides a Unique Angling Experience

Throughout the summer, I make time to get away from the desk and explore our community's visitor attractions, meet with the owners, chat with visitors and get a first hand look at the front lines of the tourism industry. With over 1400 businesses in the Thunder Bay area with a tourism focus of some sort, there are a lot of family owned gems that are as important to the visitor retention experience as our largest attractions are. I'm going to make a point of profiling them in my postings to increase industry awareness.

Perhaps the first visitor attraction U.S. residents see when heading up highway 61 is Eagle Ridge Trout Pond, owned by Judy and Rick Osipenko. This attraction, about 35 minutes south of the Thunder Bay Airport offers a unique angling experience with no fishing licence required. Folks can come in and fish for rainbow trout or bass and they offer choices of both catch and release and catch and consume. Adjacent to the catch and consume pond, picnic tables, fire pits and shelters line the area and make for a great setting for children's birthday parties, family reunions or just a great couple of hours of family entertainment.

While on a quick tour of the attraction, we headed up the trail to a collection of out buildings-which include two new cabins and a sauna building encircling a great little in ground swimming pool. The most spectacular part about this was the view from the pool and cabins...Lake Superior. You don't realize how close the highway is to the lake in that area and from the elevations, you can see the dramatic shoreline and archipelagos of the lake.

Eagle Ridge is a great quick getaway idea for Thunder Bay residents looking to entertain their visiting friends and family and is a prime example of a unique experience close to the city that can extend visitor stays and even provide corporate clients to the city a quick escape from the boardroom or conference center at the end of the day.

For more information, check out

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Prince Arthur's Landing Receives Massive Financial Contribution

Thunder Bay's Prince Arthur's Landing waterfront redevelopment project received met a significant milestone on June 5th with the announcement of $29.3 million in funding, split equally between the Ontario and Federal Governments as part of the Build Canada Infrastructure Stimulus programs. The announcement was made by Minister of Northern Development and Mines Minister and MPP for Thunder Bay Superior North Michael Gravelle, Thunder Bay Superior West MPP Bill Mauro and Federal MP for Kenora Rainy River Greg Rickford and is important in that it demonstrates the non partisan collaboration that demonstrates an confidence senior orders of government have in this strategic project.

This essentially means work on phase one of the project can now proceed and in short order, Thunder Bay will have an enhanced waterfront district that will play an integral role in visitor retention and align with our gateway strategy connecting urban visitors to the natural environment around us. This is also a milestone in the community as we are moving towards an urban renewal goal in a way unlike ever before in this community, improving our access to the Lake and improving opportunities for sustainable recreation, tourism, commerce and living.

This city's economy is changing in new and exciting ways, and with the shift from primary forest products towards a health sciences lead knowledge based economy, mining exploration and value added manufacturing, we can offer the urban amenities that these professionals, many relocating here from other parts of the world, expect and appreciate when choosing a new city. This investment also will create employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for local residents and it demonstrates an important commitment to our community's youth by creating a vibrant city they will want find opportunity in and be partners in its evolution.

Work will include realignment of sewer and water mains through the area, lake infill and the development of new market square, gallery and associated retail space, splash pad and skating rink. Laureate Developments, the private sector partner, will be complimenting the area by a proposed a new boutique hotel with proposed indoor water park and residential units and destination spa, creating a hip downtown waterfront community. Bringing approximately 300 people per night living and staying on the downtown waterfront will create a more lively downtown, increase the tax base of the community and foster business retention and expansion efforts within the Northward downtown, creating new entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for the community. Phase 2 of the project is the creation of a 300 slip marina and related retail component. The City of Thunder Bay has recently issued a request for expressions of interest from parties interested in partnering on that exciting project and it is likely to come online in the next several years.

We've already seen the positive impacts the skate plaza has had in attracting more people to the park, especially during the shoulder seasons where the park activity has traditionally been non-existent. Dozens and sometime hundreds of skaters of all ages using the plaza each day, its already fostered the opening of a new skate shop on St Paul St and increased food and beverage sales opportunities for neighboring businesses. The project aligns well with last year's Federal announcement of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, is consistent with our aggressive cruise ship attraction strategy and will introduce new visitor experiences to the community.

Stay tuned for more updates on the project.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


June 1-7, 2009 is Tourism Week in Ontario and Tourism Thunder Bay is celebrating with the launch of the 2009 Blues Getaway Contest. Thunder Bay residents are encouraged to invite their out of town friends and family to enter for a chance to win the ultimate Thunder Bay Blues Festival experience.

One lucky person will win two weekend passes to the 8th annual Thunder Bay Blues Festival (, three nights accommodation (two nights at McVicar Manor and one night aboard Sail Superior’s floating B and B) a Friday night harbour cruise with, personal transportation with Superior Pedicabs and gift certificates for lunch at Ruby Moon, and dinners at the Prospector Steakhouse and Lot 66. Residents are encouraged to email the contest entry web link to out of town friends and family.

“The Friends and Family travel market is very important to the tourism economy of Thunder Bay. We want to encourage local residents to invite their friends and family to Thunder Bay this summer and explore the fantastic events, attractions and culinary experiences our city has to offer.” According to Tourism Manager Paul Pepe. “What better way to explore your own city and encourage your friends to visit than by providing them a chance to win a weekend at one of our iconic summer events.”

Tourism Thunder Bay is also encouraging local residents to get reacquainted with their city and explore the multitude of activities within our own community. The Division invites residents and visitors alike to stop by the Terry Fox Visitor Center on Wednesday June 3rd between 10 am and 3 pm for coffee and persians, an opportunity to meet with travel advisors, pick up the new Thunder Bay Experience travel planner and get ideas for a great “staycation” this summer.

For more information, click on for contest entry and details.

Contact: Paul Anthony Pepe
Manager, Tourism