Room demand in August 2009 was up 0.8% while occupancy rates were down slightly to 77.6% from 77.7% in 2008. While flat performance is normally nothing to get too excited about, this has been the year the tourism industry was facing unprecedented challenges and everyone, including ourselves, was expecting to see some sort of notable decrease. This is the year where measuring our performance relative to other cities is just as important as measuring our performance to past years.
With most major markets reporting declines in August, including Windsor (down 36.7%) and Edmonton (down 10%), Thunder Bay was joined in reporting increases by Sudbury, Vancouver and Saskatoon.
Overall, Thunder Bay's year to date performance is down modestly 1.1% over the same 8 months of 2008. Once again, while a concern in normal years, it is the least significant decline of all but one hotel market - Saskatoon, who posted a 1% increase.
While summer corporate markets are typically softer, stronger mineral exploration and health sciences segments have likely given our corporate segment a summer boost. With respect to the traditionally strong summer segments of leisure, VFR and sport tourism there are likely a number of reasons market share has remained steady, including strong visiting friends and family travel to the city and a shift in our U.S. based campaigns with a focus on touring and avid outdoor seekers that brought stronger than expected US travel to the city in June and July.
Despite these positive performance indicators, we have to remain vigilant and continue to build traffic in both new and core existing markets. The release of these numbers has continuously created a positive buzz about the City's economy over the past few months and we are constantly asked at industry functions about the local environment. Maintaining the current positive buzz and using new media tools to promote more of this news has the effect of positioning the city more successfully as a destination of choice because we all know, people want to go where other people are going.
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