Tuesday, September 21, 2010

July US Border Traffic Shows Trend Shift Towards Touring

The July, 2010 U.S. traffic numbers for the Pigeon River Border Crossing show that a shift in the U.S. travel market is emerging, from a traditional reliance on the angling market and larger groups to a new growth in the touring experience and smaller group sizes.

Total number of U.S, residents entering the region south of the city was 17,570 compared to 18,190 in July 2009. ( a modest 3% drop) However, the number of vehicles increased slightly to 6953 from 6904 a year ago.

We've seen modest decreases in 1 and 2 plus night stays from the US market but an increase in same day traffic, supporting the notion that residents are taking shorter trips.

For the year to date, US traffic to Thunder Bay through Pigeon river is down approximately 10% to 51,213 from 56,305 a year ago.

However, U.S. visitation to local hotels appears to have increased this summer, leading to a presumption that, while the traditional angling market continues to be battered by the US economy and war efforts overseas, a new avid touring and adventure market appears to be growing to replace this market loss. The U.S, economy remains somewhat slow to rebound in the U.S. Midwest, our key markets, and a huge number of US families have family members serving overseas in various conflicts, and that's keeping a lot of people from enjoying a proper vacation until they return from duty. That said, its a huge close haul market we cannot, in the short term turn our backs on. We simply have to target our key visitor a little more carefully in the meantime.

We attribute the shift in touring towards an increase in our U.S. touring promotion efforts, including an increased presence in AAA web and print media, Lake Superior and Superior Outdoors magazines and targeted touring and soft adventure markets in targeted state capital markets of St Paul, Chicago and Madison. Work we've done in attracting cruise ship and autosport rallys to the city have also helped create new markets.

This drives home the point that we must know who our client is and what experiences they seek. selling the same thing to the same people using the same channels no longer works. Yet, we cannot ignore the 7.5 million US passport holders who live in our key geographic markets, nor the trends in touring, driven largely by the motorcycle and auto sport segments. We must also invest in new product development and enhancements to attract these emerging markets. Seeing local hotels establish secure motorcycle parking zones and added security features, bike cleaning towels in their rooms and other welcoming investments goes a long way to helping us take advantage of shifts in the market place. Angling has a lot of potential to remain a larger part of the regional experience but the industry must, overall, renew investment in individual resort infrastructure to meet changing demographics.

On the domestic side, we've seen strong Ontario traffic as well as a growth in Manitoba visitation, drawn to the parks and circle tour route. BC and Alberta re driving a lot of the transient single night stay traffic as people relocate east to west for employment purposes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thunder Bay Selected to Host the 23rd Ontario Provincial

The Thunder Bay Chapter of the Harley Owner’s Group (H.O.G®) is pleased to
announce that Thunder Bay has been selected to host the 23rd Ontario Provincial Harley Owners Group (H.O.G®) Rally from July 28-30, 2011.

Hundreds of Harley Davidson® owners and enthusiasts from Ontario as well as Manitoba and the U.S. midwest are expected to descend upon the City for their annual Provincial gathering, enjoying the City’s Superior by Nature Hospitality for “Thunder in the Bay”, the aptly chosen name for this unique event.

This is the first opportunity the City of Thunder Bay has had to host a H.O.G® Motorcycle rally and it will be an opportunity for the city to showcase its natural beauty and many features. During the rally Harley Davidson® riders will take part in a variety of activities, games and tests of riding skill as well as ride our beautiful countryside and simply see the sights. Co-coordinators for the event

Susan Macey and John Aiken both agree that a major feature of the rally will be a parade of “Hogs” through the city which will be great fun for riders and spectators alike. It will be a great opportunity for bikers and non bikers to come out and share the excitement.
The 23rd Ontario Provincial Harley Owners Group (H.O.G®) Rally is being sponsored by our local Harley Davidson® dealer and the Local H.O.G® chapter. The local H.O.G® chapter is made up of 168 recreational biking members all of whom are looking forward to the opportunity to meet fellow motorcycle enthusiasts. H.O.G® is the largest factory sponsored motorcycle club in the world with almost 1,000,000 members in 1400 chapters leading to great rides, lifetime memories and friendships worldwide.

The Victoria Inn has been chosen as the host hotel for the rally and event activities will be centered around the hotel and the Harley Davidson® dealership on Arthur Street.
Recreational motorcycling is becoming very popular throughout Canada and this event will bring a significant economic impact, not only to Thunder Bay, but to other Lake Superior coastal communities as well as riders take in one of North America’s most scenic coastal touring routes to attend the event here. Over a quarter of a million dollars is expected to be generated in local economic impacts with riders staying in the community over the course of the event.
Click here to watch the news clip. www.tbnewswatch.com/video/20069/harley-rally
For further information please contact:

John Aiken
Rally Co-Coordinator
(807) 474-9833

Susan Macey
Rally Co-Coordinator

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Understanding Consumers Interests is More Important Than Regulating Them

The consideration of bylaws that restrict overnight RV parking to private and public camp grounds has been discussed in a number of communities and on the surface, it appears to be a well intentioned initiative to direct all traffic to financially support the camp ground industry. Truthfully, I used to be in favour of them. However, the consideration of implementing such regulations and the unfortunate choice of words used to describe this segment in a recent local editorial fails to look at the larger picture and artificially creates an issue that really isn't leading to any collapse of the tourism industry. In the long run, it hurts us.

What we must maintain as the cornerstone of our entire tourism strategy, is to focus on what the consumer wants…and not every consumer wants or needs the same overnight experience. Thunder Bay has an exceptional array of high quality municipal, provincial and private campgrounds, all well operated and offering different services to attract different segments within the large RV travel market. We invest significant resources to promote these natural environment establishments, encourage their use and direct commerce in their direction but we also can never lose sight of the fact that some of our guests desire a different or basic alternative. No business, in any segment of the economy, can assume the entire marketplace thinks and acts and wants the same.

We approach this segment, like others, in a pragmatic means to grow the market and drive more traffic to all tourism partners, not simply divide it into smaller slices or even reduce it’s overall value. Those who park overnight in free lots reflect a small percentage of the overall RV market.

Defending the decision to ban parking in private parking lots (and come on, this only occurs in one lot, right?) fails to consider that some RV owners arrive in the community late or leave early, may have large relatively immobile units, don’t have needs for ancillary services or may simply want to be near urban dining or retail experiences. We should not, as a business community, condemn this very small market for wishing or needing to save $30 per night given that they still leave an economic impact in terms of food, retail, attractions admissions, repairs and fuel. They are even known to use, for a fee, pump out stations and showers at campgrounds (did I say "for a fee"?) Irregardless of how and where the economic impacts occur in our communities, it is almost entirely to tourism partners who pay property and taxes and employ local residents.

Most importantly, however, its all about creating a warm and welcoming environment and reputation to ALL of our visitors, irregardless of their economic impact. Imposing bylaws that unnecessarily restrict visitor movements and public editorial comments equating this travel segments to “tenants skipping out on rent” and labelling them as “free loaders” is typicval of a ready shoot aim mentality and does more damage in attracting and welcoming visitors. RV enthusiasts communicate on a digital stage and will avoid such destinations. Frankly, I'd rather have the 200 or so RVers annually who park for free but shop and visit local attractions than not have any of them at all. These regulatory tactics and negative customer service attitudes can very well backfire and end up putting the entire visitor oriented RV supply chain further behind in advancing this important and diversified travel segment.

To succeed in growing our tourism economy it is imperative we stop forcing guests through regulation to do what they don’t want but rather understand the scope of our visitor’s travel motivators, range of interests and true impacts and respond to them with exceptional levels of service, delivering value and extending a warm welcome. If we stay to this course, the market will grow and everyone will benefit who has the entrpreneureal desire to.

At the end of the day, knowing and respecting what consumers want and desire is a far more enlightened approach to regulating them to do and see and experience what we think they should want or forcing them to chancge their travel motivators to suit us. To be successful, shouldn't we be doing a better job catering to them? We have to pick our battles when it comes to tourism policy and this one is very ow on the list.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


TORONTO, September 7, 2010 – When WFN: World Fishing Network, North America’s only 24/7 fishing channel, asked Canadians to name the best place to wet a line, loyal anglers from more than 160 different communities nationwide stepped up to tell WFN why their town is Canada’s best place to fish. After more than a month of nominations and public voting, 10 of these towns, including Thunder Bay, Ontario, have earned a spot as a finalist in the search for WFN’s Ultimate Fishing Town.

The 10 finalists for WFN’s Ultimate Fishing Town are: Port Alberni British Columbia; Chilliwack, British Columbia; Dauphin, Manitoba; Nestor Falls, Ontario; Thunder Bay, Ontario; Port Rowan, Ontario; Seeley’s Bay, Ontario; Miramichi, New Brunswick; O’Leary, Prince Edward Island; and Nipawin, Saskatchewan.

To vote for Thunder Bay, or to simply look at its entry which includes videos, photos and testimonials from numerous passionate Thunder Bay anglers, people can visit http://www.wfn.tv/ultimate-fishing-town/Thunder-Bay.
The final phase of voting begins today at www.wfn.tv/fishingtown and runs through September 28th. The winning community, which will be announced in October, will receive a $25,000 donation to be used towards fishing–related cause(s) and have a 30-minute feature show about fishing in their town air on WFN. There will also be over $7,500 in additional prizes awarded.

The 10 cities and towns advanced to the final round after more than 220,000 votes were cast for the 160 nominated towns and cities. The top two vote-getters in each of the three geographic regions (Ontario, West and Atlantic) advanced to the final round. The other four finalists were selected by WFN based on originality, persuasiveness, energy, the nature of the community organization or cause and the number of on-line votes received. Only votes accumulated during the final round of voting will be used to determine WFN’s Ultimate Fishing Town.

“Proud and passionate anglers from more than 160 different towns and cities across Canada tried to stake their claim as WFN’s Ultimate Fishing Town, and after a nationwide vote, 10 are left standing,” said Mark Rubinstein, President and CEO of World Fishing Network. “We hope every angler across Canada who has ever cast a line will now cast a vote for the place they consider WFN’s Ultimate Fishing Town.”

The finalists are encouraged to mobilize their supporters to vote. To help, WFN has created easy to use applications at www.wfn.tv/fishingtown that allow users to customize posters and web banners. The site also offers icons for use on various social communication tools such as MSN, Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, BBM and more. The voting guidelines limit voting from one email address every 12 hours. WFN is closely monitoring votes and removing votes deemed fraudulent.

WFN is available nationwide. Check www.wfn.tv/subscribe for a complete list of TV providers and channel numbers.

About WFN: World Fishing Network
WFN: World Fishing Network is the only 24/7 television network dedicated to all segments of fishing with programming that covers instruction, tips, tournaments, travel, food, boating, outdoor lifestyle and more. WFN's wide-ranging programming lineup includes primetime theme nights, regional bureaus from across the nation, a selection of the best international series and the most diverse species coverage of any TV channel. Featuring popular programs hosted by the world's top anglers, the network also delivers a weekly news program, WFN News, and the schedule includes a variety of exclusive lifestyle shows including Hookin' up with Mariko Izumi. WFN also delivers the beauty of fishing in stunning High Definition with WFN HD, a separate network that delivers 100 percent High Definition programming 24/7.
Like millions of anglers across the continent, WFN is committed to supporting important conservation issues and groups that are fighting to preserve North America’s waterways and fisheries. WFN is also dedicated to using its resources and powerful media platform to help grow the sport by promoting and championing groups and organizations that are helping to inspire a new generation of anglers to appreciate and respect the world’s natural wonders.
Originally launched in December 2005, today WFN and WFN HD are available in more than 20 million households through North American cable, satellite and telecommunications distributors. For more information, visit http://www.WFN.TV.

Final Phase of Voting is Open at www.WFN.TV/fishingtown Until
September 28 – Winner Announced in October

Media Contact: Doug Drotman - WFN (631-462-1198 or doug@drotmanpr.com)

Early Summer Performance Identifies Opportunities and Trends

With summer behind us, we turn our attention to reviewing this past year's leisure market performance. While the North American economy still has a long way to go to a full recovery, we are seeing positive signs of growth - and shifts - in the local tourism economy.

Hotel performance to the end of June points to a strong recovery for the city in both leisure and corporate travel. June occupancy rates in the city were 79.7%, up a whopping 12.4% over the previous June. RevPar rose 22.3% to $78.21 per room. For the year to date ending June 30th, overall annual occupancy rose 4.4% to 66.4% and RevPar rose 8% to 63.86. The national YTD average occupancy rate was 57.3%. (sourced from PKF Consulting Inc. We encourage our tourism partners seeking more detailed occupancy performance data to contact PKF directly at http://www.pkfcanada.com for their range of consulting products and services)

We're still a ways from a full recovery in the North American corporate travel markets as organizations continue to send fewer delegates to meetings but we seem to have seen an increase in the number of meetings held in the city this year, albeit with fewer participants per meeting.

Despite some 2009 and first quarter 2010 stability in the US markets, we seem to have struggled a little in May and June, with decreases to the end of June in the 12% range. these are the latest numbers we have on U.S. residents crossing into Canada and we are certainly waiting to see the July and August stats before fully evaluating and commenting on the US travel market. However, given what we've seen from the travel centres and the hotel performance, we are observing a shift in travel motivators from our U.S. guests. While the traditional angling market has fallen off (with demographics aligning with some of the hardest hit economic regions) a growth in the touring market, primarily motorcycle and RV, has offset some of that decline. The lesson here is simply this, we cannot discount the US travel markets but rather start marketing to emerging markets using new tools.

Attractions performance also seems to have stabilized with modest increases reported by some attractions partners. Overall, however, we're not hearing anyone in the city cry that the sky is falling, but rather hearing some positive trends and optimistic outlooks to future performance. One thing is certain and that is that we all, as an industry, have to keep moving forward constructively, positively and productively to take advantage of the changes in the consumer travel motivators so as to keep this upswing going.

With performance data for July and August still outstanding, we'll be preparing a seasonal wrap up sometime in the coming months to coinside with the development of our 2011-2013 strategy.