The Spring spike in fuel prices and miserably cold weather (remember multiple snow falls and record hail in April prior to this year?) are being reflected in the early spring performance of our U.S. source markets. U.S. visitor traffic through the Pigeon River crossing declined 17% in April over the same month a year previous.
In April 2011, 1 792 US residents crossed into Canada south of Thunder Bay versus 2 163 a year previous. Same day traffic dropped most significantly to 643 this year compared to 924 in 2010. Single night stays rose to 172 from 151 and multiple night stays decreased to 977 from 1088 a year ago.
We're certainly hoping this isn't a trend we'll see continue. In 2010 we noticed a increase in U.S. touring traffic through Thunder Bay accommodation providers from mid spring to fall, signalling a shift in travel segments. Motorcycle and auto touring gained in popularity while the hunting and angling markets remained soft throughout the region. A continuing soft U.S. economy, $4 a gallon fuel and a horribly cold and snowy spring combine to influence early spring travel.
Based on last year's patterns and strong consumer response to our media channels, we continued to invest in US Midwest touring marketing such as AAA Living and Home and Away to build awareness in touring. To counter the current economic environment in attracting U.S. visitors, it is imperative that we focus on the calibre of the touring route around Lake Superior as an epic iconic "must see" experience that targets the avid educated and affluent traveller.
With a 330 million person source market beginning only 45 minutes drive from the city and indicators like the increase in motorcycle sales this year, we need to explore opportunities to shift strategy and seek new U.S. markets utilizing travel motivation and economic consumer trend data.