Sunday, January 15, 2012

Marketing some of the Best Fresh Water Boating in North America

Water is our most important tourism asset. Weather its trophy angling, canoeing, kayaking, sailing or waterfall viewing, its connected to many of North America's most beloved travel experiences.

We happen to have a lot of it around us, pretty special considering we're in the middle of the continent. Investing in the promotion of freshwater based experiences is a big part of our tourism strategy. Waterfront redevelopment investments by the City of Thunder Bay create improved connectivity for residents and visitors to the Big Lake. Just look around Lake Superior and you'll notice almost every community has or is making capital investments in their waterfronts to capture more visitors and create greater local recreational opportunities. The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area is a catalyst investment that all communities along its route need to be engaged in.

We've been a big supporter of the North of Superior Marina Marketing Association over the past number of years, working in a regional partnership to attract more Canadian and American boaters to this, one of the most road accessible wilderness boating regions anywhere.

In 2011, we worked with the group to bring in Power Boat Television for a week to tape an episode on cruising the North Shore of Superior. A print article based on the taping made its way into the October 2011 Boats and Places magazine and the episode is set to air later this month on Power Boat Television on the Outdoor Life Network. During the taping I was fortunate enough to give the hosts an overview of the works being undertaken at Prince Arthur's Landing. Needless to say,they were suitable impressed with the enhancements and it will be featured in their upcoming episode. One scene involving a unexpected guest swimming out to join the crew aboard is particularly entertaining and reminds us just how exotic our region is to others and we should be promoting it to avid adventure travellers accordingly.

We also partner with the association every year at the Minneapolis Boat Show, a major boating and water sport show that attracts close to forty thousand folks. Being one of only a few Canadian booths and one of the few destination promoters means we're pretty popular, speaking with over twelve hundred avid and dedicated boaters each year, doing presentations for Minnesota based boating and yacht clubs and getting a sense of the economic demographics of the region. In addition to the boating information, we also distribute hundred of Thunder Bay visitor magazines, thousands of maps, and other relevant information for the folks coming through the doors.

While the number of boats that arrive in the city by water is relatively modest - approximately one hundred or so annually - they typically stay an average of three nights in our port. Furthermore, many, many more boaters arrive by highway, towing small to medium sized day and overnight vessels to explore the archipelago. With over eight hundred thousand boats registered in Minnesota and another six hundred thousand in Wisconsin, these are large close haul source markets to tap into. While the vast majority are the sub twenty foot fishing craft, they're easily and avoidably towed here. These smaller trailer boaters stay in local hotels, stock up on groceries, dine locally and pay launch fees, adding to the local and regional tourism economy in important ways.

We're excited this year to be able to announce at the show that Prince Arthur's Landing's marina improvements within Phase 1 are complete and we're able to accommodate the return of the trailer boat market and attract more of the "sail in" market for a full operating season once again at that location. While its important to market the experiences of the community and region, its critical to have high quality experiences and amenities to promote. That's why capital investments in redevelopment like Prince Arthur's Landing are so critical. Investments being made in Nipigon, Red Rock, Terrace Bay and other coastal communities will only make the visitor experience more enriching. Personally, I'm excited to share the news with the domestic and Minnesota boating communities and seeing their impressions of the enhancements undertaken.

This year, we're also fortunate to have a partnership with Canada Border Services Agency who are providing two of their staff at the show booth with us to help US residents understand immigration and customs processes coming into Canada. Having accurate information, particularly for some who's never travelled before or who have concerns about their own backgrounds is critical to helping ease the movement of visitors across the border. The management and staff at CBSA here in Thunder Bay are great to work with and understand their important role in helping grow our tourism industry while performing a very important and sometimes under appreciated border security role.

The show is also a good weekend to meet with our U.S. counterparts to share best practices, work on some new bi-national initiatives and get a pulse on the U.S. economy.

Check out for more information on boating the North Shore.

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