Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas From Tourism Thunder Bay

On behalf of my team at Tourism Thunder Bay, Rose Marie, Cathy, Rosemarie, Jennifer, Erin, and myself, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and best of the new year.

This is a time for most of us in the industry to step back, take a breath and remember what's truly important to us all. Good friends and family, health and happiness. Its a chance to laugh a little more and not take things in life too seriously.
Its been an honour and privilege for all of us to work with the local and regional tourism industry this year and we've appreciated all of the support, participation in our programs and positive working relationships we've fostered over the year. We're looking forward to a busy and productive 2010 and the new partnerships we'll build into the future.

Here's looking to many more sunrises.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ministry of Tourism Announces New Tourism Regions

The Ministry of Tourism has released the thirteen new travel regions, the need for which was identified within the Ontario Tourism Strategy (Sorbera Report to many). I have to say that I am pretty pleased with this decision and this is something we can work well with to strengthen our community and regional approach to growing the tourism opportunities. We've provide input to this back in April and have been communicating this message to our Ministry partners throughout the summer and fall of 2009.

Northern Ontario is labeled as area thirteen with three sub regions identified - north west, north central and north east.

This definition of these new regions makes a lot of sense as it bases the decisions more on the travel patterns and commonality of experiences rather than on traditional political boundaries. As I said previously, consumers don't care out the lines that define a travel region. They want to catch big fish, see big wildlife, kayak, attend a conference or a sporting events. In short, they want the experience first, and the destination second.

I've always fgelt that we've had far too many individual tourism marketing associations in the Province - hundreds in fact. These often duplicate each others efforts and absorb much needed marketing and product development funding on administration. Large cities like ours, typically have a much more diversified segment that includes conventions, sport tourism and major attractions and we will continue to play a role a strong urban leaders for our communities. However, on the leisure and corporate retreat, travel media and group travel, we play a powerful role as gateways but need to rely on region to supply the end experience or product. The more regional partners we have access to, the more experiences we can market and the more people will consider using Thunder Bay as the hub to reach them. Everybody wins.

For Thunder Bay, being a gateway city to a larger travel region defined by common experiences will only strengthen our reputation as one of Canada's best outdoor cities. This offers opportunities to build new partnerships and relationships as far as the Manitoba border around resource based outdoor experiences and road touring routes that use Thunder Bay as a road, sea and air hub. This has the very real potential to increase opportunities in our outdoor retail and supply segment, hotels, car rental agencies, restaurants, grocers and others who see the value in working together to further enhance our reputation.

This is also an opportunity to reach out to hundreds of new potential partners in the broader region and work with them to encourage their clients to use Thunder Bay as a gateway city. They can encourage them to stop in the city for a nights rent, a round of golf, equipment purchase and rental and other services to round out their vacation experience.

There is still a lot of work to do to formalize these regions and define our new working partnerships but the opportunities to work together are certainly exciting and worth working towards to find common ground on marketing, product development and enhanced communication to ensure we are able to reach potential new visitors better than we have in the past. Now is the time to think outside of the box.

for more information, visit

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Online Registration Now Available for the 2010 Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with the Giant

Great news for running junkies everywhere and for our local tourism partners looking to boost business during the September travel month.

The Board of Directors of the Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with the
Giant are pleased to announce that registration for the event on September 19, 2010 is
now open. Individuals can register their participation in the marathon, half-marathon or 5K
races at

Registration costs start at $85 for the marathon, $65 for the half-marathon, and $35 for
the 5K. “We are extremely pleased to begin accepting registrations for the 2010 Miles
with the Giant events,” says Barry Streib, President. “We are starting to feel the buzz of
excitement within the community and we hope that enthusiasm continues to grow as we
work towards race weekend.”

To add to the excitement, organizers are pleased to confirm that running legend, Dick
Beardsley, will be attending the inaugural event. Beardsley is best known for his incredible
race in the 1982 Boston Marathon. That race, on a very hot day, was dubbed the “Duel in
the Sun” as he battled world record holder Alberto Salazar down to the finish line.

“Congratulations Thunder Bay! I'm so excited for your new Marathon, Half Marathon and 5k
taking place in September 2010” says Beardsley. “I have made many friends in Thunder Bay
over the years and I so look forward to coming back to run your race and see old friends in
a first class city that I know will put on a world class event!”

Participants also have the option to raise pledges for one of eleven charities through the
Run for a Reason Charity Pledge Program by simply choosing a charity during the
registration process. The participating charities are: The Arthritis Society, Boys & Girls Club
of Thunder Bay, Camp Quality, Canadian Red Cross Society, Dilico Children’s Foundation,
Easter Seals Society, Habitat for Humanity, Heart & Stroke Foundation, Our Kids Count,
Terry Fox Foundation, and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation.
Sponsors and volunteers are still needed to make the Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with
the Giant a huge success. Visit w w for more information.

For more information, contact Barry Streib, President. Thunder Bay Marathon - Miles with the Giant

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thinking Like Consumers

What if we, as Tourism marketers, thought like the consumers we are trying to attract?

Well first, we'd realize that consumers don't care about geopolitical boundaries and even most of them don't even think about the destination first. They care about the experience! 75% of travellers seek an experience first, with the most suitable destination for that experience following up the rear. Only 25% of travellers seek a destination (think Vegas!)

When we market the city, the region or the Province, we need to realize that these destinations don't really mean too much. Thunder Bay district, Northwestern Ontario, etc are all labels from a by gone era where political boundaries made for a convenient border around a organized regional travel association.

Well if I may be so bold, the reality is that the consumer doesn't really care. We need to start aligning our partnerships around the way people research, choose and execute their travel experience by forming alliances along the commonality of experience and the travel corridors to get there. high quality angling and hunting, eco tourism and snow mobiling extends beyond district boundaries. Touring routes for the growing motorcycle, RV and auto club markets need to align together as well (how many little individual Lake Superior regional associations are there promoting their little stretch of road?)

As for travel corridors, looking at the road, water and air routes people typically use is also important and cities like Thunder Bay, Fort Frances and Kenora play a vital role in being gateway centers for experience seekers to rest, eat, stock up on supplies, sight see or rent a car. U.S Midwest markets head up highway 61 into the city, air travellers access the region through our exceptional airport facility, our port is growing a reputation for hosting cruise ships and private yachts alike.

As we move into a new era of tourism marketing and management in Northern Ontario, we need to think in these terms to form new alliances that break down traditional tourism marketing boundaries and giuve consumers more of what they want. We already have a good inventory of the product people are looking for and we're talking more with each other across those old political boundaries. Lets just put the bow on it.

Recognizing the Regional Approach to Tourism

Thunder Bay plays a fundamental role in the regional tourism economy and I recognize the value of working with regional partners beyond our municipal boundaries to move the yard stick further.

I communicate and partner with literally hundreds of tourism partners and organizations and while meeting the individual requirements of each one presents challenges, I'm proud of the positive relationship we've built with virtually everyone.

As many know, I've been a Director with the North of Superior Tourism Association board over the past two years, elected by putting my name forward and voted by members. While I've been very proud of that role, I've started looking closely at the process by which I invest time and resources into partner organizations and discovered that I do not need to always be board member to influence decisions or build partnerships.

As many know, I've stepped down from the board this past week and my reason is very simply. Time. As the organization goes through a metamorphosis of late, its taken a lot of my time and that's time away from other projects, partners and yes, even my own family. With a work week that routinely spans 60-70 hours and sometimes carries on for 20-25 days in a row, I had an epiphany that influencing regional decisions doesn't require a board seat.

There's rumours circulating that Tourism Thunder Bay has pulled out of NOSTA. Nothing is, in fact, further from the truth. We still are, and will continue to be, a valuable member of the association and look at the association, its board and staff as important partners. In my departing remarks in my capacity as a Director yesterday, offered my continued leadership, advice, expertise and resources to the association to build successful marketing partnerhsips that deliver return on investment and benefit our many members in the city and region. Another rumour is that my seat is appointed municipally. I ran as an individual tourism professional and was duly elected by the membership. My decision to leave the board was also mine.

To work in silos, particularly at this time in tourism, is just wrong. To work effectively doesn't always require a seat on the board but simply a seat somewhere at the table. I represent a very diverse group of local tourism partners and its important that I treat each one equally and work with everyone for the betterment of the industry and to that , a neutral point of view is essential. That's not always possible while sitting formally on a board.

We have both challenging and exciting times ahead of us in tourism and I'm fiercely proud of the advancements Tourism Thunder Bay has made in recent years to raise the profile of the city as "one of Canada's Best Outdoor Cities." The rewards are in the emails and calls I get from Kenora to Wawa from regional partners interested in linking to our strategy in a bigger regional sense. The key is that it takes everyone working together with a common goal of advancing the industry. I certainly hope to see everyone on the same page moving into 2010 and I, as always, will be in at the table, board seat or not.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Art Zoom Showcases Thunder Bay's Cultural Assets

The busy summer leisure travel season typically gives way to strong corporate and sport tourism markets for us in the fall and early winter but a number of shoulder season events have been emerging to help attract regional visitors to the city during what have traditionally been slower leisure travel periods.

Artzoom ( is a great weekend event now in its third year that aims to bring visitors - and residents for that matter - back to the downtown north core. Held on the first Saturday of December, its become one of my personal faves because its close to home. I can walk downtown, enjoy a great dinner at one of the great eateries down there and stroll from gallery to gallery, shop to shop and see the creativity that our community possesses. I like it because its a great way to connect with our cultural tourism partners, find out what they're up to and learn about the new ones.

Definitely Superior Art Gallery (, St Paul Gallery, Painted Turtle, Linda Dell and others are all places we should know about in the tourism industry. These are places we need to recommend to visitors who are looking for something different and uniquely Thunder Bay. The fact that there are so many of these places so close together, and than complimented by eateries, the casino , hotels and B and Bs makes this a great little weekend getaway destination.

One of my faves this year (and a great find that put me in tears of sheer laughter) was an accidental stumble upon a little gem called Uncle Mowglies Skate and Paint ( This shop, on Red River Road, is located strategically near the new skate and BMX plaza and produces some fantastic Thunder Bay promotional apparel that speaks to all of us who are fiercely proud of the neighborhoods we grew up in or call home today. "Port Arthur", "Fort William", "Westfort" and even "Simpson Street" all show up - sometimes tongue in cheek - on classic black tees. These gems, created in house on their own screen printer, do their part to help promote the city. Each neighborhood tells a story of who we are and how we got here and even in this day where we are all "Thunder Bayites", its the identity of our neighborhoods - all of them - that makes us culturally unique.

With the Christmas VFR season upon us, I recommend taking your visiting friends and relatives to to the north core for a stroll, a meal and a little gift shopping at one of the many unique galleries that make us not only one of Canada's best outdoor cities but also one of the most culturally gifted.

Sharing Cruise Shipping Education with Northshore Communities Aims to Build New Market.

This past summer saw an important milestone for Tourism Thunder Bay with the Transport Canada certification and opening of our very own passenger marine terminal at the Pool 6 Tourism Administration centre. With the first stage completed and a flawless operating year under our belts, we are turning our attention to a long term strategy for infrastructure improvements to the site and attracting more long term commercial cruise vessels and encouraging large private yachts to utilize the terminal.

While cruise shipping admittedly makes up a small percentage of visitors to the city, its is a very important element in our long term product development strategy. Cruise shipping is, for lack of a better word, "sexy" and elevates the reputation of the city and region as a must see destination as a result. There is a exotic romance about cruise shipping and to be included as a destination alongside the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Galapagos and Antarctica can only help create a positive image of what we possess.

Its also important that we remember that numbers don't always mean as much as economic impact. While we welcomed some 900 passengers and 75 crew to the city, the economic impact of cruise shipping is approximately 4.5 times more than that of our average overnight visitor arriving by land. Our 12 visits by the MV Clelia II injected over $650 000 into the Thunder Bay economy and created the equivalent of 2 full time jobs in just 12 day stops.

We're proud of being perhaps the only tourism organization in Canada that controls its own passenger marine terminal and that gives us the complete freedom and flexibility to work seamlessly with the cruise operators to accommodate their requirements quickly and efficiently. Capitalizing on our strategic port location on the world's biggest and greatest freshwater lake, our fantastic airlift capacity of Thunder Bay International Airport, unique attractions, an abundance of hotel inventory and first rate marine servicing companies, we are working aggressively to become a destination for cruise vessels to home port during the summer months.

To do this, we need more ports involved. During the first week of December, Stephen Burnett, the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition, and myself, toured the north shore of Superior to present cruise shipping workshops in Red Rock and Wawa. In total, over 45 people turned out to learn about being cruise and port ready, identify opportunities within their communities to welcome cruise itinerary planners, develop memorable quality shore excursion programs and go through the steps to certify their secure marine facilities.

In each community, we met with a cross section of community political and business leaders, outfitters, EDOs and interested citizens interested in learning about the possibilities. Once regarded by many as not possible for freshwater coastal communities, they saw the potential that the future of fresh water experiential cruising can bring to their economic diversification efforts. The atmosphere throughout each work shop was abuzz with positive contributions.

We also chatted a little about the other market we've ignored and that is the super yacht class of private and charter vessel. These private yachts, from 80 to 200 feet, represent a new and exciting clientele for the Superior coastal communities. Thousands of these vessels ply North American coastal regions alone, they're owned by those with a sizable disposable income and they are looking for new, safe and interesting destinations. What better place to escape hurricane season of the lower eastern seaboard and gulf coastal regions of the US than the freshwater of the great lakes.

It takes everyone working together across municipal and geo political boundaries to make this happen. With several smaller lines interested in entering service, now is the time for regions to start getting ready. A big thanks to Leslie Fredericks and Ray Rivard of Red Rock and Lori Johnson of Wawa for coordinating the sessions and playing host to us last week.

If you want to learn more about becoming a cruise ship destination port, visit To learn more about the super yacht industry, visit