Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2009 Ontario Tourism Summit Open Provides Positive Messages on The Road Ahead.

Tourism Thunder Bay is currently attending the 2009 Ontario Tourism Summit being held at Caesar's Hotel and Casino in Windsor Ontario.

This year's event is the fifth annual gathering of Tourism marketing professionals from across the Province and is aptly titled "The Road Ahead". Over 400 delegates from Provincial, Federal and Municipal government tourism agencies, private operators and destination marketing organizations are hearing from some of the most influential voices in tourism and marketing, networking with each other and learning from each other's successes and experiences-good and bad.

For Tourism Thunder Bay, this is the venue in which Seven Day's With the Giant was conceived, where we placed second for marketing campaign under $25 000 in 2008 and where we continue to communicate with other partners to grow our tourism industry locally and regionally.

Today's sessions focused on changing consumer behaviors that we need to recognize and capture, turning our brand equity into sales and the collective efforts of the Ministry of Tourism, Canadian Tourism Commission and the Tourism Industry of Ontario to market our experiences more effectively, develop new products that consumers want, make smarter marketing decisions based on consumer research and get updates on what our government and industry associations are doing to lobby on everything from passport requirements to the HST to the need for enhanced tourism infrastructure investments.

This has also been a chance to see the local tourism economy in Windsor, experience some of their top visitor attractions, learn about their challenges and their successes and bring some of those good ideas home.

A high note of the conference so far has been a riveting presentation from Peter Yesawich, Chairman and CEO of Y Partnership. He provided a fantastic overview on Emerging lifestyle and travel trends and their implications for marketing Ontario in the year ahead. Understanding the emotional reasons that effect consumer travel behavior, how they seek out information on new travel experiences, how to appeal to them on an emotional level and understanding changes in their values provided me personally with a lot of new information to work with moving into out 2010 and 2011 marketing strategy years. Once presentations are available online, I'll endeavour to make their content available here.

In keeping with the theme of "The Road Ahead", the conference hall was adorned with some classic automobiles courtesy of the Automobile History Museum located in Windsor. On a personal note, the chance to see an authentic Shelby Cobra is a great bonus to the learning and networking environment here.

To read the conference agenda, visit

Ministry ot Tourism Releases Celebrate Ontario Event Support Program for 2010

The Ontario Ministry of Tourism has announced today that Celebrate Ontario, the hugely popular financial support program for the tourism event sector, is renewing funding for the 2010 year. This year, once again, sees an overall budget of $11 million to be allocated to events across the Province and this year, the application deadline has been moved up considerably to November 27, 2009, rather than in past years where the deadline was in late January or early February. That gives you approximately 2 months to pull your applications and information together. Local events to have benefited over this year to March 2010 include the Sleeping Giant Loppet, Cavendish Cup, Sleeping Giant Writer's Festival and the Thunder Bay Bluesfest.

This is a great program with an easy to follow application process and I encourage event organizers who believe their event has a tourism draw to submit their applications as soon as possible for the program. As part of the packages, letters of support from the municipal tourism association are required and as I usually get a lot of requests at the 11th hour each year, I kindly ask that you submit your request to our office no later than November 18th to allow us time to review the request and respond specifically to each individual event request. I also ask that you submit a brief description of the event, operating budget, revenue sources, other partners and the estimated tourism impact to help us assess the letter of support request.

For more information, go to

Thursday, September 24, 2009


The countdown to the fi rst annual Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with the Giant race
weekend began in earnest yesterday with the launch of the official website at

The Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with the Giant event on September 19, 2010 will feature a marathon of 26.2 miles, a half-marathon of 13.1 miles, and a 5 km race. The weekend will also include a Health & Fitness Expo, a pre-race Spaghetti Dinner, entertainment and activities around the city - along the racecourse, and at Marina Park. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to raise pledges for local charitable organizations.

Barry Streib, President and Chair of the Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with the Giant, a not-for-profit corporation says, “We believe that this event will provide numerous benefi ts to our community by encouraging an active and healthy lifestyle, generating economic stimulus, increasing tourism, and fostering collaboration between community groups.”

The course will combine Thunder Bay North’s urban, park, and residential settings into a unique experience for participants. Runners will be treated to a spectacular view of the Sleeping Giant on their sprint to the finish down Red River Road. Half marathoners will circle the route once while full marathoners will complete the route twice. A full map of the course is available on the website.

“An event of this magnitude cannot happen without the support of the community,” says Streib. “We will be actively seeking support from the business community and from enthusiastic volunteers to assist in making the weekend a success.”

The Thunder Bay Marathon – Miles with the Giant’s mission is to create a world class marathon offering a fast, challenging course, attracting both elite and recreational runners and walkers, and a series of associated events to encourage community and corporate involvement, with a single common thread - a love of wellness and the sport of running.

For more information on getting involved as a runner or volunteer, please visit or visit their Facebook group at:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tourism Thunder Bay Recognized by the Economic Development Association of Canada with a Pair of Marketing Awards.

Vancouver, British Columbia - September 20th, 2009.

Tourism Thunder Bay pleased to announce that it is the recipient of two Canada Marketing Awards presented at the 2009 Economic Development Association of Canada annual conference being held in Vancouver British Columbia on September 20th.

The awards recognise innovation in community marketing through Thunder Bay’s creative use of marketing tools to build awareness of the community, drive traffic to the city’s tourism website and engage partners using cost effective and unique methods

Specifically, Thunder Bay has won for the 2009 “Seven Days With the Giant” postcard campaign that saw thousands of postcard teasers distributed through visitor centers, campaign sponsors and outdoor retailers throughout Ontario and the U.S. Midwest to pique the interest of outdoor adventure seekers and encourage them to enter online to win a $20 000 outdoor adventure of a lifetime.

The city also won an award for its monthly tourism e-newsletter, a colourful and informative trip planning tool for visitors and residents alike. The e-news lists upcoming events, hotel packages and special rates and other tourism related information that Tourism partners can list for free.

In celebrating Vancouver’s hosting of both 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games as well as being the host city for the 2009 EDAC Conference, awards were presented in the form of gold medals.

Tourism Thunder Bay is proud to be a leader in effectively utilizing web based media tools to promote the city and integrating them with unique print media programs to extend the reach of our message through a wider range of tourism partners.” according to Paul Pepe, Manager of Tourism. “Receiving these two EDAC marketing awards is an honour and to be recognized by our economic development peers across Canada is the result of an extensive collaborative partnership involving our many tourism industry partners, Generator Advertising and the team at Tourism Thunder Bay.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

July U.S. Travel Number to Thunder Bay Continue to Show Optimism

Statistics Canada and the Canadian Border Services Agency have released the July 2009 travel statistics and we are pleased to see a continued pattern of U.S travellers entering Canada south of Thunder Bay increasing modestly over last year.

The number of U.S. Residents entering Canada by automobile at Pigeon River was 18,190 in July 2009, compared to 17,977 in 2008, a 1% increase over 2008.

While declines this year have been noted in day trips (3303 in 2008 to 2856 in 2009) and one night stays (722 in 2008 down to 667 in 2009), the growth has occurred in the two plus night travel markets which saw an increase from 13,952 in 2008 to 14,667 in 2009, an increase of 5%. The increase in longer stays is also important to note in that it increases the economic impact on the city and region with each longer stay. This also indicates that the travel was planned in advance of visitors leaving their homes rather than spontaneous day tripping.

Given the continued struggling North American economy and new Passport identification issues, these sustained travel patterns and areas of growth are an encouraging sign that shifts in tourism marketing towards U.S. experience based travel markets by Tourism Thunder Bay, OTMPC and other tourism partners are having an effect at countering the losses felt in other jurisdictions. Anecdotaly, we have heard of increased motorcycle and RV travel from area partners and believe these new touring markets represent the future growth potential for the city as part of the larger Lake Superior Circle Tour experience.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cruise Shipping By the Numbers

With the 12th and final visit to the city for the M.V. Clelia II for 2009 this morning, we are turning our efforts to making further capital improvements to the Pool 6 lands for the vessel's 2010 return for 10 new visits and working to attract other lines to visit the community.

The total economic impact of the Clelia II in the city is estimated at $600 000 to $650 000 in 2009 and while that seems incredulous for 12 days of visits as I have been publically challenged on, the reality is that cruise shipping delivers impacts far beyond the shore tour spending of each passenger.

In addition to admission to attractions, passengers shop in retail outlets such as local galleries, dine, take taxis or rent bicycles, Motor coaches are chartered to escort them to and from attractions and musical groups are hired to entertain disembarking passengers.

But the economic impact extends far further than just the passengers. Take into account that many of the vessel's 67 officers and crew depart the vessel to shop and pick up ships supplies like cleaners, paint, cooking utensils and food supplies. The vessel empties its refuse at Thunder Bay (one of the few ports capable of taking international ship waste), and companies that supply water, security services, tug and stevedore services are also employed by the vessel stops.

Add to this the planning, marketing and maintenance of the cruise vessel terminal, the capital improvements contracted out over the course of the year and the services of Customs, Immigration and Transport Canada officials. Crew members do change over while in Thunder Bay and they fly in and out of the city and stay at hotels.

On top of this is all of the federal and provincial sales taxes generated by the purchased services.

Finally, there is the multiplier effect. For every dollar generated in the city by the cruise vessel, those dollars recirculate within the community another .6 times as the businesses and employees of those businesses in turn, spend the money earned by providing services on other local goods and services.

When all of this is added together, the result is far more than the obvious visitor dollars. Its why the development of a long term cruise shipping strategy is so important to the city's economic future and why catering to the vessel owners, crews and passengers to the highest level of quality service is imperative.

Its been a lot of fun working with the Clelia's operators, crew and passengers and we've learned a lot about the cruise shipping industry and what they require to operate successfully and enjoy their time in the community. We can't wait to see them return to the City in 2010, to see the forward movement in the capital improvements at Marina Park and the investments being made to make them feel welcome for years to come.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Old Theatre Finds New Life as...a Movie Theatre

This past weekend, a new business opened up in the downtown Port Arthur core offering a new spin on a familiar architectural face.

The Paramount Theatre (, located at 24 South Court St, has reopened the second floor theatre (originally the balcony for the one screen venue) after a number of years laying dormant. Wiggles n Giggles, the popular indoor Children's play enter and a great attraction for area families in its own right, ( has and still does, occupy the main floor theatre. The Theatre, originally opened in 1948 has retained much of its architectural charm and the combination of family uses within the building are a welcome addition to the business core. It also strengthens the North Cores' place as a centre of cultural, entertainment and performing arts.

What makes the theatre unique is in the way its being programmed. They mix inexpensive admission ($3.50) to see watch the classics such as Casablanca, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds and modern popular classics including Legend and The Princess Bride. The center also offers live theatre for families and improv workshops, creating a flexible use space.

While aiming at the local market, there is no doubt that this concept will also add to the attractions in this community for visitors to enjoy as well. The more options exist in the city for visitors-even seemingly modest ones- the greater the chance of visitor retention and increased economic impacts. Hats off to the owners of the Paramount Theatre for bringing this idea online. Its great to see old architecture preserved and reprogrammed than torn down to make a parking lot.

To learn more about upcoming film and theatre events at the theatre, If you are wondering what your tourism business can do to help promote this, simply let your guests know about film and theatre showing options because with more of us acting like tour guides, the greater the economic benefit to the community.

Unique Culinary Spin Featured in Westjet's Up! Magazine

Building Thunder Bay as one of Canada's best- and hippest -outdoor communities to visit gives us a lot of material to work with, especially when courting new visitors who are looking for sustainable tourism experiences. Its also a chance for us to weave sustainable tourism experiences with more traditional urban experiences to create memorable vacations.

Working with Lois Nuttal at Lake Superior Visits (, a fun little package called "Loaves and Fishes" took on a life of its own this spring when former Senior Managing Editor of Up! magazine (, Eric Rumble, heard about it from me over coffee in Calgary. Eric loved the concept and had to write about it.

This 3 day epic adventure combines outdoor experiences, culinary and unique accommodation options to encourage visitors (and our tourism partners for that matter) to explore the city in exciting new ways. The core of Loaves and Fishes is essentially collecting local ingredients for your own dinner - even if your cooking skills involve burning water. A stay aboard the floating bed and breakfast and at the iconic McVicar Manor Bed and Breakfast, a lake superior salmon and trout fishing excursion with Archie's Charters (, visits to Thunder Oak Gouda (, Both Hands Bread and other local food producers fills ones' basket with fresh, locally made ingredients while taking in the city's iconic land and water scapes. The day ends at the spa while The chef's at Lot 66 ( ) cook it all up and pair it with worldly wines to create a memorable dining experience.

At the end of the day, Loaves and Fishes demonstrates creativity in product and experience development that consumers are looking for, weaves urban and outdoors together and builds upon our mandate to build Thunder Bay as a urban sustainable tourism leader.

Don't take my word for it. Read Eric Rumble's mouth watering take on it in the September edition of Westjet's ( Up! Magazine. You can read the online version on page 53 and 54 at:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How Will Greyhound's Departure Affect Local Tourism

With today's announcement that Greyhound Canada will discontinue service in Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba, there is some speculation on what this departure, and the removal of a traditional form of ground transportation, will have on the city.

While hard to pinpoint the exact numbers of travellers to the city who use Greyhound, the effect will be negligible for a number of reasons. Many of the people utilizing Greyhound through the city are doing just that - going through the city - and their stop here is only a matter of stretching for a few minutes, grabbing a meal and getting on with their journey. Those that do start or end their journey here are taking the bus because their point of origin is not serviced by air, that the bus is cheaper (in theory) than air or they are afraid to fly. Where we anticipate a reduction in visitation, albeit a minor one, is the youth budget cross Canada market. These groups are generally on a budget and have a big country to explore so they won't stay in the city that long, nor leave a large economic impact. That said, the local industries that I predict may be affected by this travel segment would be the hostels, basic level accommodation providers and in some cases, even campgrounds.

The air corridor and fear of flying reasons are both sound reasons but on the topic of expense, a look at the Greyhound website shows 14 day advance bookings at $93.75 each way from Toronto and a last minute non refundable ticket at $195.10. A refundable ticket will set you back $216.10 each way. These rates are not that much less than advance airfares on the three major Canadian airlines that service the Thunder Bay to Toronto corridor and add to that the 2 hour travel time by air versus the 24 hour travel time by bus, the time saving alone is worth the extra airfare cost.

Given the emphasis we have placed on the motor coach attraction market, our focus has been on the specialty firms that offer packaged destination experiences and not scheduled transportation carriers like Greyhound. In fact, we see those charter operators continuing to serve Thunder Bay and some that provide trans Canada touring routes could even pick up some of the slack albeit a minimal amount. With respect to Tourism Thunder Bay's marketing focus, most of our efforts in the leisure market caters to the independant adventurer, arriving by car, RV or motorcycle. Our corporate market caters to regional auto travel or air travel and our sport tourism markets will generally utilize charter coaches or air travel.

However, I don't see the absence of bus travel to and through Thunder Bay lasting long at all. Within the city we have 4 great locally owned motor coach operators. Caribou Coach ( has already assumed previously abandoned Greyhound lines extending from Fort Frances to Hearst and is growing to meet growth opportunities in the charter field. Other local players include Winning Streak Charters (, Norcan Tours ( and Happy Time Tours ( While there is no telling, who, if any pick up the routes, the opportunity could exist for a local or regional solution to link Saskatchewan and Southern Ontario.

The bottom line is, while a concern for those in rural Northern Ontario, the departure of Greyhound will not have a huge or lasting negative impact on tourism within the city of Thunder Bay. If efforts to restore a traffic corridor were to be undertaken through the region, I'd rather see efforts made towards the return of passenger rail.

The McGuffin's Launch a Great Quetico Commerative Book

Anybody in Canada and the United States who appreciates wilderness photography and conservation knows the names of Gary and Joanie McGuffin. They have done a lot to bring attention to the natural beauty of Northern Ontario through their stunning photography, epic annual adventures and leadership in conservation based causes to ensure our natural environment remains a tourism treasure for generations to come. I'm also proud to call them friends of mine and I credit them as being an instrumental part in of launching of the "Seven Days With the Giant" platform in 2008.

This morning, Gary and Joanie released a new book of images and stories to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Quetico Park. I have to admit I have never paddled Quetico but have flown over much of it in a float plane and educated myself at their visitor center. A read through their latest work uncovers the layers and depth of what is one of the world's great natural environment parks that encourages me to explore it by water, up close and personal. It also reminds me that we in Thunder Bay are fortunate to be a gateway community to this renowned wilderness area and our strategy to build Thunder Bay into one of Canada's great outdoor cities needs to integrate with such a gem.

The book is available at Chapters here in Thunder Bay and it makes a fantastic gift or a great educational keepsake for yourself. I think more local tourism partners should learn about this gem and what they can do to link themselves to it in some way. To learn more about these wonderful folks, visit

New Meeting and Convention Planner Capitalizes on the "Unconventional Convention" Destination

We recently introduced our stunning new meetings and convention planner, a colourful and informative guide in both print and online versions that gets prospective convention and meeting planners thinking about Thunder Bay in a whole new way.

In keeping with our strategy to position Thunder Bay as one of Canada's best outdoor cities, we're weaving our unique meeting and convention locations with great outdoor, culinary and cultural experiences to improve our position within the increasingly important meeting and convention market. We've introduced the term "the unconventional convention" into our lexicon to get meeting planners seeing the city as a unique, affordable and memorable destination rather than a carbon copy of any other mid size city in Canada

The new 28 page guide is easy to follow and provides all of the information our meeting planners have told us they want to see - without the unnecessary filler. Information on accommodation, meeting rooms, unique meeting location, convention supply partners and transportation information are all available in one source.

Our increased commitment to to growing the meeting and convention market is based on our strategic location and world class air corridor coverage that makes Thunder Bay a convenient and stunningly different option for regional, Provincial and National corporate retreats, and small to medium sized conventions. We're also integrating opportunities to tie attractions and culinary experiences into our convention strategy as a means to increase visitation to our partners that are traditionally focused on the leisure market. By encouraging organizers to offer side trips such as visits to cultural attractions, off site meals and outdoor activities such as angling, kayaking and skiing, we extend the opportunities for other partners to become part of the convention market. We'll even place visitor services staff at large gatherings to help delegates plan their evenings, off time and "hooky" excursions. After all, how many of us have travelled to conventions and never seen more than the hotel and airport? I can tell you, it reduces the fun of convention travel.

Getting the planning tools into the hands of planners is being undertaken through a strategy involving industry showcases across Canada, print and online meeting and convention planning media and through a new twist on the VFR campaigns by providing local businesses, organizations and media planners the tools and advice they need to successfully bid on events that attract their partners to the city. Thunder Bay's major meeting and convention sectors have been identified as Health Sciences, Education, First Nation, Mining and Government groups, all segments with a reason to meet in Thunder Bay.

In keeping with our foundation statement to become a leader in sustainable tourism and a growing movement in the meeting and convention market to pick "green destinations", we have our sights set on standing out with our connection to the natural environment around us.

If you or your organization want to host a conference in the city that will bring in visitors, contact our Meeting and Convention Planner, Rose Marie Tarnowski at

New Marketing Sales Kit Helps Tourism Businesses Grow

Recently, we released our 2010 Media partnership sales kit to help our tourism industry partners reach new markets effectively.

Our 2010 Sales Kit provides an overview of print and online marketing opportunities that partners can purchase to help strengthen their position in the marketplace and drive new business to their doors. Our marketing shift towards experience based online and print media has allowed us to raise the profile of the city as one of Canada's Great Outdoor Cities, weaving spectacular and iconic outdoor landscapes with unique and fascinating culinary and cultural urban experiences, a move that is generating international media attention and allowing us to buck some of the downward trends facing the Canadian tourism industry this year.

Our annual Thunder Bay Experience magazine has catapulted in popularity as a must have resource for visitors and local residents alike and is credited by many of our tourism partners for increasing visitation and revenues. with 120 000 copies in print, distributed throughout the Lake Superior basin and over 40 000 downloads annually, its become the most important tourism fulfillment resource for the city and area.

Our newly revamped site has replaced our 1-800 number as the main call to action for visitors seeking more information. With over 425 000 visitors using the site last year to help them plan their trip. Free listings and paid banner advertising is available and some of our partners report anywhere from 15000 to 30 000 click throughs annually from our site to theirs.

A sales kit has been mailed out to over 400 local tourism partners and the order forms are available online. However, if you want to learn more about advertising opportunities, contact Rose Marie Mancusa, our Marketing Coordinator, at