Monday, November 30, 2009

Tourism Spotlight - Get in Gear

Promoting Thunder Bay as one of Canada's Great Outdoor Cities requires a strong network of local retail partners to help visitors prepare for their adventures. Being a gateway or base camp, the city realizes a powerful economic impact when anglers, campers, hikers, kayakers and sailors stock up on supplies, food and equipment in the city prior to heading out and taking in our urban accommodation, cultural and culinary experiences at the end of their trip. One of those key outdoor retailers is Gear Up For Outdoors and owner Jon Wynn, who has been a huge supporter of our outdoor tourism strategy.

Celebrating 23 years of business, Gear-up for Outdoors has grown and expanded to become one of the largest outdoor retailers of high quality name brand tents, packs, clothing, outerwear, boots & shoes. And that’s not all. They also carry a complete line of winter outdoor gear like snowshoes and summer camping gear including camp stoves, sleeping bags and a whole line of
accessories. They consider their kid’s line of clothing is only the best for your children.

Well established high end name brands of outerwear and footwear will provide warmth when required and the necessary comfort all day long. Gear-up prides itself on knowledge, and their well educated staff has an extensive understanding of all brands and products to make decisions on what to buy easier; but important to make your outdoor experience a memorable one. Their staff is among the best at what they do and pride themselves on making sure customers are happy.

"We are constantly attending Vendor Product Trade shows 6-months to 1-year in advance
to assure the most current products are available for our customers, as well we attempt to
stock the most current colors, styles, and sizing! Our online store has been outfitting
and shipping all your outdoor equipment and clothing needs throughout Canada, United States, Europe, both poles and everywhere in between for the past 14 years!"

Gear Up For Outdoors endeavors to provide the highest quality and most functional outdoor products and equipment for all seasons. For professionals in the field of Forestry, Geology,
Mining and Tree Planting, we carry an extensive variety of specialized safety footwear and clothing as well as measuring, mapping, and marking supplies, instruments & tools.

And for those special occasions throughout the year, they carry some of the most wonderful gift
ideas for those special people in your life. Check out their website at or drop in and see them at 894 Alloy Place, Thunder Bay.

(portions of this article were recently seen in New Horizons magazine)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Selling Thunder Bay as a Conference Destination at CSAE

Tourism Thunder Bay will have a presence at the 2009 Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) being held at the Toronto Metro Convention Center November 25-27th.

Look for us at booth 614 where we'll be promoting Thunder Bay as an ideal meeting and convention location to the thousands of delegates looking for the "unconventional convention" destination. Many of these associations have branches in Thunder Bay and thus a reason to meet here. Its part of our enhanced meeting and convention attraction strategy that focuses on segments that have connections to the city already, making them more likely to consider us as a destination.

As part of our overall strategy to promote Thunder Bay as one of Canada's best outdoor cities, we've integrated the uniqueness of our geography into our meeting and convention strategy, focusing on unique venues such as Fort William Historical Park ( or Whitewater Golf Club ( quality convention hotels and unique corporate retreat locations. We have also begun integrating the cities leisure and culinary activities into conference attraction efforts, encouraging organizers and delegates to get out of the meeting rooms and enjoy the slopes, the lake, an attraction of iconic culinary experience while here.

Its also a great national venue to promote our superior air connectivity and we'll be letting delegates know about Porter (, Jazz ( and Westjet ( connections from major centers as well as our regional air partners Bearskin ( and Wasaya ( Being so well served is one of our strategic advantages over other Northern Ontario cities and being geographically centered in Canada makes us a convenient location for national and international gatherings.

If your in the area, stop by and chat with Rose Marie Tarnowski, our Meeting and Convention Coordinator.

September Border Crossing Show Continual Improvements

After a softer August, September's Pigeon River border crossings jumped substantially this year, bringing optimism for a return to traditional US travel market levels. At a time when many destination marketing organizations in Canada have written off US markets or continued with shotgun campaigns, our approach to targeting the travel motivations of the 7.1 million passport holders in the US midwest appears to have been paying off.

September 2009 saw 10, 332 U.S. residents cross into the Thunder Bay District from Pigeon River, up 12% from 9,124 the previous September.

Same day and 2 plus night overnight visits increased by 5% and 17% respectively while single night overnight trips dropped 15%. Same day travel was responsible for 19% of traffic (1,944), single overnight stays at 5% (417) and 2 plus night travel made up 77% (7,971) of U.S. travel to the district. A larger percentage of U.S.visitors are staying longer in the district, increasing economic impacts.

Shifts in our U.S. based marketing programs towards avid touring and outdoor experience seekers, innovative partnerships with OTMPC into the Madison and St Paul markets and direct initiatives by other tourism partners in the city and area such as the Fort William Historical Park Canada Gateway Center are likely the main reasons behind this positive trend and demonstrate the importance of using consumer travel motivator data as the basis for tourism marketing strategies.

Friday, November 13, 2009

September Hotel Performance Lower but Still Ahead of National Trends

September's hotel performance statistics are in and while room demand is moderately down over September 2008, the city remains one of the least adversely affected Canadian markets in 2009.

Room demand is down 5.9% over September 2008. Occupancy levels have dropped to 73.7% from 79% a year ago and average daily room rates have increased from $94.64 to $98.18. Within this time frame an additional 1% of room capacity has been added to the 2288 rooms in the district inventory largely through expansion of existing properties. In essence, while occupancy and room demand is down, it appears that increased revenue through the increased average daily room rates could offset the room demand drop. Theoretically, properties aren't necessarily taking in any less gross revenues than last September

For the year to date, hotel performance is down 2.1% compared to the end of Q3 2008. While down, it still remains the 3rd strongest hotel market for 2008 after the red hot Regina/Saskatoon market and Quebec City. Its important to look at the performance within the context of the environment we're all operating in and compare to other national markets to identify the true opportunities and threats. The truth remains that for our urban tourism industry, the sky is definitely not falling. We do, however, have to remain vigilant, know our performance, understand our markets and respond pragmatically.

This September's decrease over 2008 is likely tied to a number of factors including poor weather that impacted fall touring in the leisure segment, a constriction of corporate overnight meeting and convention travel and the fact that the end of September 2008 saw 450 participants beginning to arrive in Thunder Bay for the Canadian Armed Forces SAREX competitions.

However, its also important for us to review this data, identify low periods and plan adjustments to our future tourism marketing and promotion strategy to help rebuild market share. Our recently released new meeting and convention attraction program and a larger hands on presence at Canada's leading convention planners industry showcases, the introduction of the inaugural September 2010 Thunder Bay marathon and adjustments to our participation in Lake Superior touring promotion are all underway to rebuild traffic for next year.

To follow national hotel performance trends yourself, visit

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Showing Some Heart

I've always said "To sell the city to the world, we have to sell it to ourselves first."

More and more throughout the community, this statement is ringing true with a increasing number of community individuals, groups and companies stepping up to show and share their pride in the community.

Johnny Debakker, who last year, created the I "Heart" TBay t-shirt, is one such individual. Now worn by hundreds, if not thousands of local residents and visitors alike, nothing so simple has had such a effect at putting smiles on people's faces and encouraging them to appreciate this fantastic community we call home. Even our entire city council has gotten in on the fun (see pic). Being proud of our city is also about knowing whats going on around us, being aware of advancements and evolution of our economy and sharing it with others to create a more positive environment around us.

Years ago, I asked a hotel clerk in El Paso Texas what there was to see in the city. The dry response was simply and unenthusiastically "Mexico." I did explore more and found the city to be vibrant and fun but I'll never forget the first response to my question.

With 692 000 visitors coming to the city annually, there are travelers every day exploring our community who may very well ask you or I for directions, recommendations on attractions, events, culinary and accommodation experiences. People ask about the economy of the city, urban legends, points of interest and other things too. That's why its important for each and every one of us to understand what we have, be proud of it and talk enthusiastically to others about what there is to explore here. At the end of the day it enhances our community's reputation and that ultimately puts people to work.

If you want to show some community pride and pick up a I "Heart" TBay shirt, visit Ozone on Memorial Ave, Lava on Brodie St, Lux on Frederica, Push Fitness on Fort William Road or The Loop on Bay St. For more info, visit

Friday, November 6, 2009

Spreading Positive News About our Tourism Potential

Tourism Thunder Bay has been making its rounds recently, sharing our tourism marketing and product development philosophy with a number of local, regional and provincial groups. Its a major part of our strategy to share our outlook, successes and ideas with industry and expand the city's reputation as being on the cutting edge of tourism development in Ontario.

On November 2, we presented an overview of Thunder Bay's waterfront and cruise shipping infrastructure strategy to a group of 22 economic development professionals from across North Western Ontario. the forum, sponsored by EDCO ( and the Ministry of Tourism's Investment Development Office ( , provided valuable information to community development officers considering major capital infrastructure project s to enhance their tourism economies. Thunder Bay's new mixed use waterfront development enhancements at Prince Arthur's Landing will create over $202 million in community economic impacts and employ over 200 people once completed. It will bring people to the waterfront on a more year around basis and the accommodation and residential components will see more people live and stay in the downtown core, increasing the opportunities for successful downtown revitalization.

November 3rd found Tourism Thunder Bay speaking at the annual Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario ( conference held in Sault Ste Marie. Our topic was "Business as Unusual. How Outdoor Tourism Operators can Build Successful Partnerships with the Cities Around Them." In a year that has seen numerous challenges for the traditional resource based tourism industries in Northern Ontario, we aimed to establish a positive message about thinking outside of the box and looking at new ways to partner with urban partners to increase opportunities for new markets.

People who know me know that I hate negativity and self loathing. It doesn't do anything to sell our experiences to the world, let alone ourselves. We have to take the changes in the tourism environment to be catalysts for innovative, positive and constructive new directions. We spoke about the successes of the City's new strategy to promote the city as one of Canada's Best Outdoor Cities and gateway to some of the world's best outdoor experiences. We touched on the importance of understanding customer's needs, improving quality and applying the principles of sustainable tourism to meet the growing demands of today's traveler. The presentation was well received and we've already had interest from regional operators asking how they can link into the City of Thunder Bay's marketing strategy and build partnerships with local hotels, retailers and others to extend the stay for their clients in the region.

One of the trends we've seen develop is the linking of golf and angling. Thunder Bay offers some great golf "stay and play" packages and we encourage regional fishing and hunting operators to promote this package as a way to attract at least one night's stay for their clients in the city. These guests play golf, rent clubs, dine and spend a night in the city and that increases the economic impact for everyone. Go to for more information on these packages and how you're lodge can help promote it.

On a related note, thanks to Harold Wilson at the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce for his positive shout out to Tourism Thunder Bay. We recently provided an overview of the Tourism Division to the Chamber's Small Business Committee and had some great dialogue begin that will undoubtedly lead to some new enhanced partnership opportunities between the Chamber and the City around the tourism industry. This is a presentation we're always happy to provide to any group, big or small so feel free to email me at to arrange a time to speak to your organization.

Monday, November 2, 2009

FWHP Wins Discovery Award

Fort William Historical Park has been recognized by its peers in the Ministry of Tourism for noteworthy efforts in increasing cross-border visits from the United States.

The Fort received the Discovery Award for Innovative Risk Taker thanks to the opening of the Fort William Historical Park Canada Gateway Centre in Grand Marais, Minnesota earlier this summer.

The Discovery Awards identify and recognize excellence in public service within the Ministry of Tourism. Awards in six categories were presented at the Ministry’s Staff Day in Toronto earlier this month.

On hand to receive the award as team members were General Manager Sergio Buonocore, Manager of Marketing and Customer Service Doug Stanton, Historical Operations Manager Peter Boyle, and Business Services Manager Sandei Beattie. Fellow award winners absent for the ceremony were Corporate Development Officer Chris Ficek and Collections Team Leader Shawn Patterson.

The Canada Gateway Centre represents a partnership between the Fort and American entrepreneur David Parsons of Parsons Management, who also operates the Grand Marais Inn. The grand opening occurred May 27th, 2009. The initiative is designed to encourage U.S. travellers passing through Grand Marais to visit the Fort, Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario. Grand Marais was targeted due to high tourist traffic during the summer and its relatively close proximity to Thunder Bay.

General Manager Buonocore says that the Gateway Centre is a unique initiative and that the Discovery Award represents hard work by all Fort staff. “There’s no other initiative like this in the Ministry of Tourism,” says Mr. Buonocore. “And the Discovery Award is a reflection of the ongoing team effort by the entire Fort staff.”

The Centre is contributing to increases in revenue (29%) and attendance (40%) for FWHP 2009 to date, compared to the similar calendar period in 2008.