Tuesday, March 6, 2012


There is no doubt that the city's mining related economy is on the upswing in a big way. With the community being a base for gold, palladium and diamond mines, and extensive exploration efforts including the much hyped "Ring of Fire", the community is seeing the economic benefits of the supply chain associated with this industry in a big way...and its only going to grow in the next twenty years.

The city has successfully re focused our brand position as one of Canada's Best Outdoor Cities and on the surface, many would draw the conclusion that the very experiences we promote are in conflict with the resource extraction reputation of the mining industry. They can and do co-exist and we have to approach our overall economic future in a balanced multi disciplinary approach. There's room for everyone to play and good land use planning permits that focuses on highest and best sustainable use of natural resources in a given geographic region can permit that co-existance to flourish.

The tourism industry benefits from this sector. We're seeing the positive impacts on both the hotel and airport performance. But how about the other tourism related businesses in the city. We're seeing a wide range of professionals from around the planet arriving in the city to work or stage their trip into the region and they are no different than the leisure markets that are often considered the only tourism market.

These professionals are often here for days or even weeks at a time. They rent cars and truck, utilize air services, eat and will take in local attractions while here. They do have leisure time to explore. A number of years ago, I worked to mediate a conflict between an exploration firm and a remote tourism operator north of the city. What started as a conflict of land use values turned into a unique partnership whereby the exploration company became guests of the lodge but also offered to provide interpretation of their drilling program to some of the outfitters clients. It turns out that gold exploration in the heart of the Candian shield and boreal forest is something that is interesting to some people.

The city is primed to host regional, national and even international mining related conferences, trade shows and meetings. Mining is a major segment of our meeting and convention strategy. Look at the annual Northwestern Ontario Mining Symposium held here every year, how it continues to grow and attract delegates, not only from our region but from across North America.

The other night, I was returning from Toronto and got to chatting with a seat mate from Salt Lake City travelling to the region on mining related business. He was interested in our geography, activities, winter and cost of living. While on the ground, he was going to rent a vehicle, stay overnight and eat at local establishments. He was inquiring about skiing and dog sledding, too. We've heard from industry partners that groups of mining executives going out on fishing or sailing charters, exploring the art gallery or taking a group kayak tour of the waterfront. These are the traditional visitor experiences - the leisure market oriented ones - that everyone thinks about. The bottom line is that the thousands of mining related professionals arriving in the city also enjoy the traditional tourism attractions making it a valued market segment of our tourism economy.

Here is where we in the tourism marketing role in partnership with our front line partners in the taxi, hotel and restaurant industry can play a role in maximizing the visitor experience. Its about recommending the great restaurants, knowing the major attractions and hidden gems and selling them on what makes Thunder Bay great. Brag about all the NHL stars we grow, being on the world's largest freshwater lake, home to the world's largest fur trade post or one of Canada's top natural wonders. Share with them that we have some of Canada's most affordable housing, long summer days and access to outdoor experiences minutes from downtown.

Remember, many of our mining industry visitors are looking to the city to establish branch operations, plan extended work stays or even relocate themselves and their families. A well informed tourism industry can play a role in influencing positive visitor impressions and positive economic impacts.

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