Monday, March 29, 2010

Lake Superior Magazine is Looking for the Lake's Best Burger Joints

This is a chance for Thunder Bay's tourism and culinary partners and foodies alike to put their best foot forward and brag a little.

Lake Superior Magazine (
is looking for the Lake's best burger joints and we know Thunder Bay has some of the best around. When I heard about this story idea, I got thinking about my own personal favorites and that its time for a little taste testing road trip around the city.

I love a good burger and find that whatever city I travel to for work or play, I have to have a burger at least once. Burger bars are the new "in" culinary treat and the rise of them in North America speaks to our desire for simple foods done exceptionally well.

What's your favorite? Is it the famed Stanley Burger? A slider from McKeller Confectionery, Hodder Greek's or the Westfort Coney Island? Cronos Cafe's hand patted burger? Have you tried one of the decadent burgers on Caribou's lunch menu? Do you have a secret burger place you want to share with others?

This is a chance for our local culinary industry to brag a little so let Lake Superior Magazine, one of our great partners in promoting Lake Superior tourism experiences, know all about it.

You can visit Lake Superior Magazine's Facebook fan page or email Leslie Meyer at by April 9th with your pick for Thunder Bay's best burger joint.

I'd be remiss if I didn't share my own burger recipe and love of all things food with you. Nothing beats a home made burger grilled on the back deck. This one is my all time favorite burger recipe to share.

1 pound locally prepared ground beef - lean
1 pack onion soup mix
1 egg
Worcestershire Sauce
minced basil - locally produced fresh is best but dry or pesto works too.
bread crumbs
seasoning salt and cracked pepper to taste

mix it up and press into patties of whatever size fits in your mouth.

Now the toppings-and this is what really makes it. Local melted gouda and sliced elk summer sausage (both available at the Thunder Bay Country market), a pesto mayonnaise (easy to blend yourself) and homemade pickled eggplant on a fresh Roma Bakery bun (or grilled on a panini press on garlic buttered sourdough rye). Voila!

Here's to good eatin' locally!

City of Thunder Bay Develops a New Cultural Plan

The City of Thunder Bay's Culture and Recreation Division is developing Thunder Bay's first formal cultural plan and they're looking for your input.

Tourism is one of the seven drivers identified to building a successful cultural community. Our culture is diverse and defines who we are as a community. Its also intimately woven into our larger mission to become regarded as Canada's Best Outdoor City and it supports the principals of sustainable tourism by promoting activities that not only conserve our natural environment but bring economic benefits to the community. Our cultural industries, including artisans, culinary, and events, comprise a formidable element of our local economy.

Our culture is in our music, art, culinary, attractions, events, and even sports. It defines us as unique and rounds out the visitor experience, even when its not the main travel motivator. Visitors may travel here for an outdoor experience like fishing or kayaking, a conference or a sport tournament but its the food, the little artisan shops, or a great local band they heard in a bar that can make their experience extraordinary.

On Monday March 29th from 6:30 to 9 pm at the Community Auditorium, local tourism partners and community members as a whole have a chance to learn about the process in more detail. This event is open to the public.

On March 30th, from 9 AM to 5 PM, an all day workshop for Thunder Bay's cultural partners will help define this strategy in more detail. It may not be too late to register for the March 30th session but registration is required. contact Callie Hemsworth at

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Opportunities Abound to Promote Your Experience At

Tourism Thunder Bay is wrapping up its second consecutive year of a great partnership with OTMPC with respect to content management on the portal and we're looking for itinerary, bundle, story and photo submissions from our local partners for year 3, starting April 1st.

We've been developing the content to date, creating and linking experiences together to showcase unique options for visitors. However, this is truly an industry partnership and we'd like to see more content coming in.

The whole idea behind this is to increase search engine traffic to Thunder Bay experiences and give potential visitors ideas and suggestions that make their vacation experience complete while here.

Here are just a few of the categories we're looking for content around.

Bundles - visitor experiences that are complimentary to each other, examples of which can be museums, outdoor recreation, music or culinary tours.

Itineraries - starting with a core destination experience such as a festival, kayaking, or angling, than adding a accommodation and culinary options together.

Stories - We want to hear your favorite travel story about Thunder Bay. It could be from one of your guests or even your own.

We want to see tourism experience providers working together with accommodation providers, culinary and cultural events and attractions to create some great new vacation ideas that we can post...and generate more buzz for Canada's best outdoor city.

Just email your bundle and itinerary suggestions to and we'll get them up there. For photos and stories, go to and upload them through that channel.

Strong 2010 Start to Visitor Centre Traffic Reported

Tourism Thunder Bay's Terry Fox Visitor Center has reported some positive results in visitation in the first two months of 2010 and it follows a 2009 that saw a 4% growth in visitation despite being the worse travel year in recent memory for the Canadian industry in general.

These winter months are typically slower for visitation and so the numbers shown are traditionally lower than the summer, where daily traffic to the centre can reach to 400 to 600 persons.

Registrations were 468 in January and 676 in February, a 9% increase over the same period in 2009. In January, 392 (84%) were Canadian, 49 (10%) were U.S. and 27 (6%) were from overseas. During February, 582 (86%) were Canadian, 82 (12%) were U.S. and 12(2%) were overseas. Our winter Canadian Visitors were largely from Ontario and Manitoba while U.S. visitors were overwhelmingly from Minnesota.

The door counters at the Center measured 907 and 1149 for January and February respectively. This represents a 7% and 13% increase respectively. The counters represent people entering the visitor center information areas but who don't choose to fill in their travel information and motivations.

Thunder Bay Participates in Seatrade Cruise Shipping Miami's International Gathering

The arrival of the MV Clelia II at Pool 6 last summer signaled the return of passenger shipping to the downtown north core waterfront and complimented the significant investment in our waterfront currently underway.

While vessels have been coming into the city since 1997, the future for great lakes cruise shipping holds tremendous opportunity for growth. With a total economic impact of $592 000 from the twelve Clelia visits last year, cruise shipping has the opportunity to offer big returns for the community and positively impact many small businesses in a relatively short port stay. It may have only represented less than 1% of our total tourism economy last year but the importance extend beyond the actual monetary value. Cruise shipping elevates our community's reputation as a culturally enriched unique, exotic and high calibre destination. Aligning with this reputation brings tremendous positive attention to our community and region. Bluntly stated, cruise shipping is sexy.

I recently returned from attending the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Miami ( conference. This annual gathering, the 26th such event, is the home port of the global cruise shipping industry. It was an opportunity to spend four days in the company of two thousand delegates and thousands of industry exhibitors and travel trade specialists, sharing experiences and learning best practices from some of the world's best. While our industry is in its infancy, caters to smaller expedition type vessels and is small when compared to Miami, Port Canaveral, Alaska and BC, the lessons learned are still valuable and can be applied to our own experiences and vision.

I had the chance to take in the State of the Industry panel discussion, lead by the CEOs of six of the world's top cruise lines, as well as workshops and panel discussions on upscale markets, global source and deployment strategies, terminal design and management, expedition and discovery cruising, and more.

Overall, the industry has a lot of growth ahead of it. The industry expects to globally carry upwards of 14.1 million passengers this year, an increase of 6.4% over last year. While last year's capacity seems to have fared well, it came at heavily discounted rates. The expedition and discovery markets, our best bet, expects positive future growth projections. The global market, comprised of only 9000 berths spread among 53 ships, is very small but running at high occupancy levels, indicating potential growth opportunities for new builds in the future.

In addition to our delegate status, we were also there as members of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition, a collective of 24 port cities and marine partners working together across the border to build a viable industry that diversifies, not only the tourism industry, but the Great Lakes marine industry in general. Being the only freshwater destination at the show helps us stand out, generating a constant stream of interest from other delegates, exhibitors and visitors to the show.

Lake Superior has tremendous potential to grow with respect to the expedition and discovery cruising markets. With the National Marine Conservation Area, Isle Royale, Apostle Islands and other areas of National and International importance, combined with unique communities and shore excursion options, we have to start promoting us as a place as exotic as anywhere else on earth.

for this year, we're looking at 10 return visits from the Clelia II while 2011 and 12 promise two visits by a larger vessel in each year and the possibilities of several other lines currently evaluating the market demand.

We have a long way to go to build cruise shipping for our region but the good news is that we're out of the gate, are starting to make ourselves known on the international stage and developing some great innovative bi national partnerships for the future.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Icarus Foundation's Guide to Green Festivals and Events

I had a chance to catch last evening's presentation on climate change and tourism by Dr Rachel Dodds of the Icarus Foundation and it really reinforced my beliefs that the sustainability of our natural environment will be key to maintaining and growing our tourism economy for the city and region.

Its our goal to become leaders in urban sustainable tourism and with the abundance of partners and tools we have at our disposal, its achievable. We're currently ramping up our dialogue with our Active Transportation and Greenwise initiatives, with Lakehead University and others who all share this goal. We've had interest from some traditionally consumptive partners including the snow mobiling and hunting segments, who want to learn more about this. It's that broad range of interest that's encouraging. Remember, its not that we have to give up our recreational passions and activities that are part of our northern culture. Its just that we undertake them with an eye to ensuring they exist in the future.

The Icarus Foundation has some great research and planning tools to assist tourism industry partners to become more aware of their ecological footprint and provide planning tools to become more environmentally responsible.

Locally, we see this awareness starting to grow and recent Municipal awards granted to the Victoria Inn and OLG Casino Thunder Bay are evidence that economy and ecology are inter elated more and more in our industry. My vision is to see environmental sustainably worn like a badge...quite as many of our local tourism partners as possible, letting visitors know our values.

There's one particular tool I want to hi lite in this post. In 2008, the Foundation released a Guide to Green Festivals and Events. This 15 page guide provides some insights and ideas that can be readily implemented by organizations at all levels. Its easy to follow and gives some great real examples of what's done elsewhere.

To read it online or print it (but only if you need to print it!), visit

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sustainable Tourism Leader Visits Thunder Bay to Talk Climate Change and Tourism

Sustainability is the critical cornerstone to the future of our local and regional tourism economy. Understanding how each and every tourism operation, be it consumptive or non consumptive, can implement the principals of environmental sustainability within their organization is essential to moving forward successfully. More and more, environmental sustainability converts to economic sustainability within the tourism industry. Its something we all need to embrace.

On March 11, a great opportunity for Thunder Bay tourism partners exists to learn more about the effects of climate change on tourism by one of North America's most respected academics on the subject. Dr Rachel Dodds, a founding member of the Icarus Foundation and a widely published leader on the topic, will be presenting on the link between climate change and tourism.

Her research expertise focuses on sustainable tourism development, climate change, corporate social responsibility, certification and and tourist motivations. As well as her involvement in the Icarus Foundation, she is also a member of TIAC and of the TTRA.

The Nature Based Tourism Program, Department of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism and the Faculty of Graduate Studies of Lakehead are partnering on this event. It runs from 6 PM to 8 PM at Lakehead Univerity's ATAC building room 2019.

For more information, contact Kelsey Johansen, MES Speaker's Series Coordinator at Lake head University at 343-8876.

To learn more about the Icarus Foundation, visit

Monday, March 8, 2010

Year End Report Goes to Council March 8th.

Each year, we present a year end performance report to City Council and the public, outlining the state of the previous year's tourism economy locally, a summary of our major partnerships and initiatives and identifying major trends noted over the past year.

The Thunder Bay tourism economy posted a slight decline in 2009 but displayed remarkable resilience to the global challenges facing the tourism industry. Internationally, in 2009, these challenges resulted in a significant North American wide decline in industry performance. A near par dollar, weak North American economy, new border crossing identification requirements, and below seasonal weather created a near "perfect storm". 2009 was not so much a year to compare performance to past years; but, to compare performance to other regions and communities.

Tourism industry performance in the city of Thunder Bay varied with both growth and declines noted across all sectors. However, any declines noted were, in most cases, less than industry averages, translating into a tourism economy that out-performed many other jurisdictions.
Tourism Thunder Bay continues to build its reputation as a leading economic development body in the City of Thunder Bay and the authoritative leader with specific responsibility for the tourism segment of the local and regional economy. Tourism is an important element of the City’s diversification efforts, representing $71,273,000 in direct economic impact, housing some 1,747 jobs in 1,357 establishments.

To read the entire report, go to:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thunder Bay Welcomes North American Ice Yacht Championships

Proving that there is no limit to the potential to host sport tourism events of all sorts, Tourism Thunder Bay is thrilled to welcome fifty eight ice yacht racers to the city this week from all over North America and as far away as Poland and Germany. While we had no direct role in bringing the event to Thunder Bay, we want to make sure these folks all feel the embrace of our "superior by nature" brand of hospitality. This is an event that found its way to the city because of our world class natural environment.

If you have never seen ice yacht racing, head up Lakeshore Drive tomorrow during the day and turn into the Silver Harbour Conservation Area. These little rockets, with seating for one person, three skate blades and a single sail skim across the lake at 100-140 km per hour...when there is wind. Its something to behold.

This is another great example of how our city's connectivity to the outdoor experiences and natural environment are our biggest tourism assets, not only for leisure but for organized sporting events as well. In terms of accommodation, meals, food and ancillary spending, this impromptu event will generate approximately $21 000 in economic impact for our city, educate us all on something new and opens the door to host more of these events in the future.

This event came together very quickly as Thunder Bay's cold winter and limited snowfall have created the best ice conditions in North America. In fact, the decision by the organization's governing body wasn't made until Saturday night...February 27th, to come here. Racers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and as far away as North Carolina, Poland and Germany are here for at least a few days as they compete in a 7 race series.

If you have a chance to get out on March 3rd at Silver Harbour, pop in to watch, say hi and extend your Thunder Bay welcome to them as well.
To learn more about this fantastic winter adrenalin rush of a sport, visit or google "ice boat"

Local Tourism Partners Recognized for Going Green

Environmental responsibility is integral to maintaining the sustainability of our tourism industry and the experiences we offer visitors into the future. Its not just the resource based outfitters that need to consider the principals of sustainability but every partner, urban or rural, has a role to play. We believe that the principals of sustainable tourism are a key foundation of our municipal tourism strategy and can be implemented by all of our partners irregardless of the experiences they promote.

In 2004, the City of Thunder Bay, in partnership with the Zero Waste Action Team, implemented the Municipal Green Awards, that called for applicants to set specific goals to reduce, reuse, recycle or divert waste or improve the management of resources within the community, their business or organization. On March 1, The City of Thunder Bay recognized a number of Thunder Bay businesses and organizations for their actions during 2009 in becoming more environmentally sustainable. Two of those organizations are our tourism partners.


The Victoria Inn Hotel and Convention Centre ( has implemented many energy saving initiatives to reduce their consumption of natural resources. In the kitchen area, a new hot water booster was installed, which reduces overall usage on the main boilers. A new high efficiency dishwasher was also installed and a proper servicing schedule has been developed to ensure proper efficiency of the unit is maintained. In the kitchen area, a second rational cook unit was installed replacing 4 outdated convection ovens. This area has also seen a cardboard bailer added and it has reduced cardboard pick up by 50%. In the banquet area, they have added stainless steel table tops and are no longer required to cover and skirt the buffet and display tables. This initiative has shown a reduction in the amount of laundry being processed, which has decreased water usage. In the laundry area, they have upgraded all the commercial washers and now operate 3 high efficiency units, which have reduced total wash cycle counts. There is also a program in place with their chemical supplier to ensure that exact measurements are used in their washing program. Rooms, within the hotel, have dual flush toilets which have shown a 20% reduction in water usage. Recycling containers and a towel wash program are also in place. They have also implemented a “green” team that engages both management and staff to work together to come up with ways to show ongoing environmental stewardship.


OLG Casino Thunder Bay ( continues to demonstrate environmental stewardship within the community by continuing to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. A waste audit identified that OLG Casino Thunder Bay was recycling 74% of recyclable material, including 80 pounds of shrink wrap, 80 pounds of batteries, 1500 coffee trays and 1500 pounds of organic waste was vermicomposted. Take out containers, from its restaurant, are made of sustainable bamboo material and placed in a recyclable brown paper bag. Their annual use of bottled water has been reduced by 7,000 bottles and more than 27,000 decks of cards are recycled annually. Also, reusable float bags were purchased, eliminating the use of more than 52,000 plastic bags annually. OLG Casino Thunder Bay has a “green” team information board to educate staff of their commuter challenge, garbage free lunches, and “green” Christmas initiatives.

Congratulations to the Victoria Inn and OLG Casino Thunder Bay for raising the bar in environmental sustainability.

If you want to learn more about what your business can do to become more environmentally sustainable, Earthwise Thunder Bay has created a great tool kit to help you find the way. You can download it at:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Will U.S. Passport Price Increases Affect Us?

Recent news that the Unites States is increasing passport fees by as much as 35% is creating a topic for discussion around the impact this will have on travel to Canada.

My take on it? Yes and No. Given the unprecedented challenges facing the tourism industry in North America over the past 18 months, from poor weather, at par dollar, slow economy and so forth, this is just another little speed bump we have to address.

For border communities that rely on U.S. day trippers, lower income and middle income families, the answer is Yes. It will affect their visitation. For Thunder Bay, only 19% of our 94 000 U.S. visitors to the city were day trippers. Because the nearest U.S. community is 90 minutes away, we don't anticipate this will have a large impact.

However, we're in the business of finding solutions, not bemoaning challenges. If all we do is complain, we'll fail.

The reality is that over 1.3 million new passports were issued in our four key U.S. Midwest markets of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois in 2009. Over 7 million passports have been issued in those four states in the past 5 years and over 11 million currently have passports in those states. Remember that U.S. passports are good for 10 years so, for the 7 million who got passports in the past 5 years in those key states, there should be no immediate concerns related simply to passports.

Remember, in 2009, when U.S. travel to Canada was down 9.2%, we were only down 1.6%. We were, in fact, up 1% in June and July (the first two months of the new passport requirements at land crossings) and 12.5% up in September. Much of this performance can be attributed to a shift in marketing into the U.S. markets that was much more targeted to specific adventure groups, groups that research indicated would still travel during tough economic times. This wasn't just limited to our efforts but many of our partners, the Province and regional travel associations as well.

People who get passports are generally business or avid adventure travellers or both. Educated and avid travelers are our target markets. People who travel possess a passion to explore, to learn new things, meet new people and place a high value on the experience. They continue to exist and our task remains to make sure we maintain or develop the experiences they seek, deliver value and quality and to market this effectively to them.

The guy or gal who never leaves his or her house and complains about having to drive across town (among other things) doesn't likely travel and will likely never need nor want a passport. He or she are not the market we work to attract.

Our efforts over the past two years have focused more on avid enthusiasts looking for a trophy experience. It's important that we all realize that there are a number of these trophy experiences that we own in this region- Outdoors such as angling, hunting and sustainable silent wilderness experiences, the Lake Superior Circle tour and iconic sport tourism events. For people passionate about their pursuits, the additional $35 every 10 years on a passport is not a deterrence. If your driver's licence went up the equivalent of $3.50 every year, would you stop driving? Probably not.

The other element in all of this is the pursuit of new markets. With the prevalence of the Internet, its never been so easy to reach out to avid travel markets globally. While we can continue to invest in growing existing best bet close haul markets, we must also allocate our resources further afield to reach the avid that does not mind driving a little further or even flying to find their experience. We've seen growth in European markets locally as well as spikes from non traditional U.S. markets such as Texas, Florida and California.

We have some of the most spectacular natural environment in North America and some of the best coastal driving, angling and wilderness paddling at our doorstep and we should never lose our confidence in it. Maintaining that confidence, knowing our consumers needs and delivering on value, will be our key to attracting new markets and overcoming challenges to the industry environment.