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.