Monday, February 22, 2010

Valhalla Hosts Indoor Golf Tourney In Support of United Way

Hats off to the contributions Thunder Bay's tourism partners make to creating a better city!
Help one of our great local tourism partners, the Valhalla Inn (, make indoor golf history and help the United Way of Thunder Bay raise money that helps organizations in the community.

The Valhalla is hosting an indoor golf tournament Friday April 9, 2010. Put together a fun team to golf 18 custom holes (including an exotic pool side hole) throughout the hotel to win fantastic prizes. Its putters only so don't worry about dragging the bags and carts out of storage or having to replace broken lights after each swing.

In addition to having a great time, there's also entertainment and a special wrap up dinner created by their own Chef Herbert Kraus.

Registration begins at 3 PM, shotgun start at 4 PM, reception at 6 PM and dinner and prizes finish off a great afternoon at 7 PM

Space is limited and the entry fee is $300.00 per team. for more information, you can email Bill Dell at

2009 Hotel Performance Review

For many in the North American tourism industry, the end of 2009 could not have come fast enough. The perfect storm crested over the entire industry with everything from at par currency, sluggish economy, poor weather and new passport requirements conspiring to slow the industry.

For me, status quo should be taken to be as good as growth and while I'm never happy to see negative performance, I have to say we weathered the storm better than many travel regions. It was a year where I did not compare our performance so much to other years but rather to other communities.

My last post focused on the remarkable resilience our U.S. markets showed last summer. As for our hotel performance, a year end dip of 3.2% in occupancy rates, told a story of people staying closer to home or looking for accommodation deals. However, its important that we look at those performance numbers in context. With the provincial average of -4.4% and national occupancy rates down 5.1% we still out performed many other jurisdictions. In fact, we have still retained an overall occupancy rate of 65.4%, higher than many other Northern Ontario communities. With respect to revenue per available room, Thunder Bay dipped 4.4% to $63.18 while nationally, the REVPAR rate dipped 12.3% to 72.80.

Apart from these declines, however, bright spots were noted. Apart from out performing many other markets, some properties reported some strong months, due in part to a combination of touring markets, conferences and sport travel. Some properties also re-invested in capital room upgrades - a positive sign during tough times that sends a message of long term optimism. This investment recognizes that good quality and value is also easier to sell in the long term.

Our corporate tourism markets are important to our economy and perhaps the largest single contributor to the dip was the health of the North American corporate economy. As companies contracted their spending, they sent less delegates to conventions and meetings. This accounts for the majority of the declines. However, given the performance of many other hotel markets, we have nothing to be ashamed of and we held our own nicely.

For 2010, the industry outlook looks slightly rosier although I am taking a more conservative approach to predicting performance to say we will hold the course. Corporate bookings appear to be on the increase and local advancements in the health sciences and mining industries are certain to grow corporate travel to the city. The Ring of Fire mineral exploration activity north of the city will have a significant medium to long term impact on our corporate travel markets as Thunder Bay plays a gateway role for the industry in terms of support services.

I think the industry deserves a round of applause for weathering 2009, and through it all, still making investments in capital and quality.

For 2010, it will take the entire tourism industry to keep working towards our goal to raise Thunder Bay's profile as one of North America's best outdoor cities for visiting, sports and work and a destination for unconventional convention experiences. I believe we're all up to the challenge.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2009 U.S. Border Crossing Wrap Up

With the December 2009 U.S. Resident crossing numbers in, its fair to say that, while the overall number of U.S. residents visiting the city were down slightly over 2008, U.S. traffic performed far better than the national average in a year that saw every possible issue affecting travel.

For the year ending December 31, 92,268 U.S. residents crossed into Canada at Pigeon River, a decrease of only 1.6% over the previous year. Considering that nationally, U.S. travel to Canada was down 9.2%, we held our own in a tough year. The performance of U.S. travel was largely based on touring markets seeking the Lake Superior Circle tour experience.

As for December, while U.S. traffic to Canada was up 1.2%, there was a decrease at Pigeon River of 17% over 2008, (2026 visitors in 2009 versus 2445 in 2008)largely due to a combination of on par currency, bitter cold combined with a lack of snow, and the lingering effects of a slow U.S. economy.

Going into the 2010 year, we're expanding our touring promotion efforts into the U.S. mid west and southern Ontario, centered around circle tour programs, and developing new bi national partnerships to focus more effort on promoting a road and water touring route that has significant potential to grow in popularity.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Tourism Thunder Bay, in partnership with over 15 tourism industry partners, is once again offering one winner and three guests the opportunity to win the ultimate week long outdoor adventure in Thunder Bay this summer.

Now in its third year, ”Seven Days With the Giant” capitalizes upon our connection to the iconic geography of the Sleeping Giant, our intimate connection to Lake Superior and the unique cultural and culinary experiences in and around the city. This year’s grand prize, valued at over $12 000, generates significant interest through the North American avid outdoor community, positioning Thunder Bay as one of North America’s best outdoor cities.

Avid outdoor enthusiasts who live outside of the Thunder Bay area are encouraged to visit the contest entry site at beginning noon on February 11, 2010 until 12:00 AM midnight, May 31, 2010. Winners will be selected in June 2010 with an August 2010 experience redemption period.

This year’s partners include Ontario Parks, Parks Canada, Best Western Norwester Resort, OTMPC, Enterprise Car Rental, Gear Up for Outdoors, Golf Thunder Bay, Archie’s Charters, Thunder Bay Observatory, Masala Grille, Caribou, Lake Superior Visits, Fort William Historical Park, Founder’s Pioneer Village, and many other attractions and businesses.

For 2010, changes to the campaign will increase appeal to a wider range of outdoor experience seekers and offers the winners the opportunity to customize their adventure by selecting a wider range of outdoor and cultural experiences. This year’s campaign is central to our summer leisure marketing program and will include a strong social media component, utilizing Facebook, blogs and Twitter to reach targeted outdoor enthusiasts. Social media users are encouraged to follow along and invite their friends to join in and re-tweet news relating to the campaign.

“Seven Days with the Giant continues to weave our incredible natural environment around the city with our eclectic urban culinary and cultural attractions to create an atmosphere that positions us as destination as exotic as anywhere else on earth.” according to Thunder Bay Tourism Manager Paul Pepe.

A media and partnership launch for the event takes place on Thursday February 11, 2010 at 11 AM at Fort William Historical Park’s Visitor Centre.


“Seven Days With the Giant” began in 2008 and was featured as the Great Ontario Outdoor Adventure of a Lifetime program with the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation to capitalize upon Sleeping Giant Provincial Park being recognized as one of Canada’s best natural wonders in the 2007 CBC “Seven Wonder’s of Canada” contest that saw the park receive more online votes than Niagara Falls.

Tourism Thunder Bay re-introduced the campaign in 2009 based on overwhelming response in the first year and the desire by consumers and partners alike, to continue participating.

In its two first years, the campaign has generated over 32 000 entries from across North America.

The campaign is unique in that it represents a rare partnership between a major city and its parks partners. It beings benefits the community’s urban tourism partners by weaving natural environment attractions with a community’s culinary and cultural attractions. The model was featured at the 2008 International Eco and Sustainable Tourism Conference.

For 2010, Seven Days With the Giant returns with changes that appeal to a wider range of outdoor enthusiasts by allowing them to custom design their week long vacation in Thunder Bay. Winners will be able to select from a number of optional activities such as golfing, angling, amethyst mine tours, hiking, mountain biking, flight seeing, farm tours and other activities to create their perfect experience.

2010 project partners include the following
Tourism Thunder Bay – Lead promoter
Ontario Parks – Park access to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Parks Canada – interpretive support
Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership – marketing support
Best Western Norwester Resort -2 nights accommodation
Enterprise Car Rental – 1 week car rental
Golf Thunder Bay – round of golf for 4 and 2 cart rentals
Masala Grille – dinner for 4
Caribou – Dinner for 4
Gear Up for Outdoors – camping gear set
Archie’s Charters – ½ day Lake Superior Fishing Charter
Lake Superior Visits – Tour coordination
Fort William Historical Park – park passes
Founder’s Pioneer Village – attractions passes

Other partners continue to join the program and are being added to the on line throughout the campaign.

Online entry is available at and opens at noon EST, Thursday February 11, 2010. The contest closes at midnight, May 31, 2010. Prize redemption period is August 1 to September 6, 2010.

for more information on getting involved, contact me at

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"My Home Town" tells a City's Story with Youthful Pride

Over the course of about two hours today, no fewer than 6 different people from the business and political community emailed me a YouTube link at work that I just had to watch. I get about 300 emails a day so I figured I had to have a look at this one.

I opened up a YouTube video called "My Hometown" and watched. And listened. Than I made everyone in the building watch and listen. Its a great music video composed, sang and produced by some real Thunder Bay talent and more importantly, youth who love this community and want to share their pride with others. I posted it to my Facebook page and emailed it to everyone in my family.

Its a little edgy and if you've lived here all your life, your emotions will kick in at some point watching it and you'll smile. They rap about the Hoito, Terry Fox, Sleeping Giant, our Hockey heritage, Mount McKay, a paper town in transition and yes, even Crystal Beer (rumour is Labatts only brews it for us!) They even work "Superior By Nature" into the song calling it pure T-Bay.

The melody is mesmerizing, the word rhyme all T-Bay and the videography is as polished as anything Hollywood produces. This showcases the calibre of our youth's talents and its great that YouTube gives them a world stage. The men behind this, song writer Jordan Burnell and cinematographer Matt Popowich, deserve big kudos for their talent and the pride they have in their city, channelled through a music medium that connects with other youth locally....and even those of us not so young. It instills pride in who we are and what has shaped us.

In 2 minutes and 52 seconds they tell an authentic story about the city through their own experiences and loves of youth. Its also a story of my youth here. Its a city's many stories that give it depth, character and make it interesting for visitors and residents alike. This is certainly one fun story to watch. The images, set against our typical winter January backdrop flashes through our stunning natural scenery, downtown buildings, streets, a transit bus, a neighborhood hockey rink and even a paper mill. It talks with pride about the things we cherish as residents lucky enough to live here, our quirks and what forms the foundation of our unique culture.

As of this evening, only 18 hours after posting, it has been watched over 900 times, and elicited over 178 comments - all overwhelmingly encouraging. It was comments from local people and ex pats lamenting that the song made them miss T-Bay. We have some real talent in our young ambassadors and we need to applaud them and others who in their own way, are proud of the city and want to share it through art forms of many types.

Well, enough of my yakking. Why don't you watch it for yourself.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

2010 Visitor Experience Magazine Released

Tourism Thunder Bay has just released its 2010 Thunder Bay Experience magazine and we're proud to say we've outdone ourselves again to deliver a marketing tool that showcases our great community and delivers results to our partners.

The annual visitor fulfillment piece has grown to a 96 page edition in the third year of the new format and welcomes increased advertising revenue as more and more tourism partners see value in participating. Three years ago, we debuted our first edition of Experience, a full colour magazine style book designed to appeal to adventure seekers and those looking for experiences rather than destinations. The book became a hit, not only with visitors but with local residents who, it turns out, have been using it as a guide for their visiting friends and family. This market makes up 26% of our tourism traffic and by helping local residents play tour guide and ambassador with confidence, its had a positive effect on increasing visitation for many of our local attractions. We can do a lot to market the city within our staff of 7 and even more by encouraging local residents to form a community of Ambassadors.

With well over 160 000 print and download copies circulating annually, the comprehensive book has a lengthy shelf life and helps visitors and residents alike, rediscover the activities and attractions the city has to offer. In the coming weeks, look for the magazine online in a new format that allows online page turning and hot links to participating sponsors.

This year's book has a little different look by aligning our visual identity with Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnerships identity guidelines. A big thanks goes out to Generator Advertising and Strategy ( for undertaking the redesign, with editorial management and advertising sales handled by Tourism Thunder Bay's own Rosemarie Mancusa, who's put in a ton of time over the past 8 months to oversee what is our best book yet.

This year's editorial content provides an eclectic mix of stories including the city's exciting new cruise shipping developments, exploring local food producers, historical plaques around the city, art in unexpected areas and information on the local areas fantastic collection of provincial parks. This book is made possible by the advertising revenues of dozens of local partners and the editorial contributions of Barb Rees of Ontario Parks, Catherine Schwartz-Mendez of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, Svenja Hansen of Parks Canada, Leah Bayly with the City of Thunder Bay and William Hryb.

Stop by the Terry Fox Centre, any hotel lobby, Airport, City Hall or the Victoriaville Civic Centre to grab a copy. We'll be at the 2010 Central Canada Outdoor Show at the Sports Dome February 26-28 giving out our free copies and talking up Thunder Bay's fantastic attractions with residents and visitors alike.

Province Invites Expressions of Interest for the Big Thunder Sports Park.

The Ministry of Tourism's Investment Development Office has released a Request for Expressions of Interest for the former Big Thunder Sports Park, located south of Thunder Bay.

The 360 acre property was once one of the world's best known ski jumping facilities, and a major annual stop on the world ski jumping circuit. This reputation helped make it the site of the 1995 World Nordic Championships prior to its closing in 1996. The property has sat, largely unused since that time with interest in its re programming surfacing from time to time over the past decade and a half.

To read more or download the request, visit