Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"Unconventional Convention" Campaign Takes Off.

Our "Unconventional Convention" strategy is generating some positive attention from our friends at Northern Ontario Business.

The February issue features a number of articles on Thunder Bay's corporate partners, Lake Superior Visits and Sailsuperior. There is also a robust article on our new strategy developed in 2011 that aligns with our overall vision to be positioned as Canada's Best Outdoor City and distinguish ourselves from other municipal convention destinations. Where most people are zigging, we decided to zag. We've focused on the details that create inspired meetings and conferences. Things like the food, the pre and post activities and the unique off site, corporate retreat and break out options. The convention business is hugely competitive between cities across Ontario and we felt it important to break the mold a little, have a little fun and get planners thinking about how they great they'll look when they've delivered a successful and unique event. We've also looked beyond our traditional municipal boundaries to include unique corporate retreat experiences in Nipigon and Red Rock.

Our 2011 Meeting and Convention Planner has all the conference planner info at ones fingertips-from room capacities, hotel room inventory, unique locations and the like but kicks it up a few notches to showcase the culinary masterminds of the convention hotels, unique off site and team building experiences and things to do while waiting to fly home. What do you remember from a conference? Was it the great food? The team building sailing or kayak tour or just catching a great local band in a club at the end of the day? Most people don't remember what the meeting room looked like.

The strategy draws heavily on our biggest asset. Air connectivity. With Westjet, Air Canada, Porter, Bearskin and Wasaya serving the city, we're becoming top of mind for provincial and national meeting planners. Easy to get to, affordable hotel rates and all the services available in larger centres opens a lot of eyes in the conference planners world.

In 2011, we began an in flight marketing campaign with all five national and regional airlines to speak directly to the corporate audience. Lets face it. Everyone reads the in flight magazine when flying. They flip through it, read it backwards and memorize the ads. The strategy also included a refreshed and inspiring trade show expo and participation in some of Ontario and Canada's top convention planner shows. We even had a lot of fun coordinating the cover shoot last summer at the newly opened Prince Arthur's Landing where we staged an outdoor meeting at the end of pier 2 on a clear July night with sailboats cruising around in the background.

An important element of the convention strategy is to improve the cross pollination between our corporate and leisure segments. Encouraging business travellers to explore our restaurant and live music scene, integrate a visit to the art gallery or hit the slopes increases yield and improves the overall economic contribution of the tourism industry. It also makes business travellers enjoy their time more and perhaps they'll return with family on vacation.

The plan also focuses on a number of best bet segments within the corporate travel market that have a logical reason to do business in Thunder Bay. Mining, health sciences, government, NGO, education and First Nations groups are all important to our municipal corporate travel market and contribute significantly to our overall annual tourism economy.

The strategy is already delivering more bid inquiries through our office and more interest in both the online site and printed convention planner. From the industry performance side, increased airport usage and hotel occupancy rates in 2011 support the notion of increased business travel to the city.

If you're a convention planner looking for something different, contact our Conference Planner, Rose Marie Tarnowski at

No comments: