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.

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