Sunday, December 6, 2009

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

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