Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Closure of 75% of Provincial Travel Centres in the Northwest Unacceptable

As many of you know, I often focus my blog posts on good news that can move the industry forward. However, every once in a while, a policy issue hits our industry and we need to respond. Today, I'm requesting that our tourism industry partners throughout the region help us out. In last week's provincial budget, the Province announced the closure of three out of four gateway travel centres in the northwest. More alarming is that every one of the centers is located in the sunset Country region.

Ontario is a huge province that borders a lot of different close haul domestic and U.S. markets. This year, OTMPC's main target in their provincial campaign is families and targets the southern Ontario market, New York State and Detroit. With the exception of the southern Ontario markets, these are not key markets for the northwest and we opted out of the marketing program, indicating our interest to grow our marketing inner regionally and into the Manitoba and Saskatchewan markets. The reality is that we have different visitor experiences, cater to a different traveller demographic and have different source markets. We've made a lot of progress to develop partnerships with OTMPC to make wise investments so its a shock to see the region abandoned by the closure of these gateway centers from Minnesota, the Dakotas and Manitoba and Western Canada.

On Friday, in my capacity as the Regional Chair for the Northern Ontario RTO, I wrote to Minister Michael Chan - Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport and Ronald Holgerson, the Interim CEO of OTMPC to express the regional industry's collective concerns with this poor budgetary policy. We're requested a meeting with the Ministry to look towards creative partnerships to resolve these closures and recognize the importance of these centers in the gateway communities of Northwestern Ontario. In a year where over $1.5 million in new RTO and Provincial tourism marketing investments are being made in the Manitoba and US Midwest markets, the shuttering of these centers in 2012 will be an embarrassment to the industry, the region and the Ministry.

Don't get me wrong. We enjoy a great partnership with OTMPC. But we also owe it to the industry to take a stand to question matters that could have a negative impact on the communities and operators that count on these centers to provide visitors with the essential information on the region. We have quickly been able to attract support from the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association and letters of support from North Central and Northeast Ontario.

We're looking for more support from the region and industry so please write or email to Minister and Mr Holgerson to express the value these travel centers have to growing the region's tourism industry.

Hon Michael Chan
Minister - Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport
Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport
900 Bay Street, 9th Floor. Hearst Block
Toronto, ON
M7A 2E1

Mr Ronald Holgerson
Interim CEO - Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation

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