Thursday, June 28, 2012


Out on the Big Water with Northern Wilds crew aboard's Frodo.  Clockwise rom left are Kate Watson, Shawn Perich, Captain Gregory Herioux, Amber Pratt and Paul Pepe.  Jim Boyd is behind the lens.
 This year is shaping up to be another amazing year for travel media interested in our area.  These journaists have discovered us through a numnber of sources and tourism partners and we've connected with them to create unique itineraries that they'll showcase in web, print and television.
As of today, we're up to twenty journalists covering everything from motorcycle touring to sailing the Big Water, kayaking, the growing local music culture and our culinary diversity.

Travel media is such a critical part of our marketing strategy and is becoming increasingly a larger element within our operating budget.  attracting journaists through any number of Canadian and US travel media showcases such as Canada Media Market Place or Go Media to name but a few.  We also get a lot of travel media inquiries from our friends at OTMPC and even other tourism marketing organizations such as Algoma Kinnewabi Travel Association. Travel media tells stories in more detail and authenticity than an advertisement does and often ends up costing less.  We typically cover their expenses while here and many of our partners featured offer discounts and complimentary admissions in exchange for the publicity they receive.  In 2011, we welcomed twenty two journalists and we received over $7325 000 in earned media value (determined by what we'd have to pay for the equivilant print, web or television space.)

A few weeks back we hosted four Minnesota based journalists writing for Northern Wilds but also representing interests beyond the popular Northern Lake Superior lifestyle.  Today I had a chance to see the first two digital outcomes of the 4 whirwind days they spent, not only in Thunder Bay but up as far as as Terrace Bay and Rossport, really giving our coastal region a lot of attention.  In fact, we want to welcome them back later this year to see even more of the region.

You can read the identical articles either at North Shore Community Radio's website or at's site.

While the group was in Thunder Bay, The Tourism Division had a great time playing host as a couple of them weren't that familiar with the area.  Shawn Perich, Editor of Northern Wilds, along with staff writer Amber Pratt, North House Folk School Marketing Coordinator Kate Watson and freelancer Jim Boyd absorbed a lot of different experiences while in the area and really loved the food culture, the waterfront redevelopments and our urban connection to our natural environment.  For me, the most important element of the familiarization tour was getting to stregthen our tourism relationships and freiendships with folks across the border.  Lake Superior and the highway corridor around it is our single largest tourism asset and it takes all of us working together across three states, one province and two countries to grow the industry in any meaningful way.

Of course, it wouldn't have been made possible without the assistance of over sixteen other local and regional tourism partners who took time to show them around their attractions and respective communities.

Tomorrow is another day and we're welcoming a California based travel culture journalist , followed on Monday by a Vancouver based blogger, a crew from Inside Motorcycle and MAV TV...and this is all before the Bluesfest weekend!  We have another twelve booked in for the balance of July and August.

If you see a film crew or photo journalist around the city this summer, take a second to welcome them.  They'll love it!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Cycle tourism, both the human and petrol powered kind - are both increasing in popularity across North America and Thunder Bay has the assets to capitalize on both in big ways.

Today, I'm going to talk about the human powered one.  Bicycle tourism is on the rise for a number of reasons.  A greater awareness of living a healthy lifestyle, rising fuel prices and greater awareness of avid travellers to experience destinations in ways that are harmonious with he natural environment.

Thunder Bay's investments in bicycle infrastructure in the past few years is to be applauded.  The active transportation strategy and the work of the city's own Adam Krupper is helping move this forward in a big way.   While it has not always been easy, anything worth doing never is.  Its part of Thunder Bay's transformation from car loving culture to one that is very rapidly evolving into a hip and eclectic urban culture.  (Don't get me wrong as I myself love my automobiles too).  The city is finding its place and its an exciting time to be here if you're in the community and economic development fields.

The creation of dedicated bicycle lanes began two years ago to much acclaim and a bit of criticism from a minority of the motoring public struggling with the idea of being attentive at the wheel and following traffic lines.  The lanes help define shared road space and ingrain drivers with the awareness that sharing the road with bicycles is important and the law.  This network of lanes and sharrows has expanded in each of the programs two subsequent years and we're now seeing it link the main routes together as well as link to the network of recreational trails.  The lanes make sense where we have wider than average roadways and where creating dedicated recreational paths just is not financially nor logistically feasible.

This past week, our active transportation strategy made a great link to our cultural scene with the unveiling of the new bike rack program.  Local businesses and organizations can purchase bike racks that feature artwork created by the local visual arts community, providing dedicated bike lock up space, promoting the local arts community and further building awareness in bike use.

The work in recent years to map out the single track at Shuniah Mines and promotes cycling on the city's ever expanding recreational trail system also add to our critical cycling asset inventory.  Bike racks installed on the entire fleet of city transit buses beginning in 2009 also add to our cycle friendly environment.

When one looks around, the private sector investments in cycle tourism are pretty impressive as well. We have businesses like Nipigon's Epic Adventures and Thunder Bay's Superior Bike Tours, we have Superior Pedicabs and retailers like Petries and Rollin Thunder offering bike rentals.  The Thunder Bay Cycling Club even has online information catering to bike visitors and the Black Sheep Mountain Bike Club are widely known for their promotion of that segment of riding.

In the bigger picture,. these investments say "welcome" to the cycling visitor.  In a community whose tourism mission statement is to be regarded as Canada's Best Outdoor City to attract the 62% of North Americans who seek outdoor adventures as their travel motivator, these investments compliment the tourism strategy wonderfully.

This all leads to the next question. Who is the cycling visitor anyway?

Typically, 50% are between 30 and 50 years of age, 46% have an income over $75 000 annually and 51% are female. The cycling market includes leisure families, recreational riders, mountain biking, touring cyclists.  Economic impact in Niagara is $148 per person excluding accommodation which can add anywhere from $50 to $75 per person.  The cyclist wants a nice meal, a comfortable bed and unique attractions to stop at along their riding tour.   Naturally, they want their bikes, often expensive - to be safely and securely cared for. In Quebec, Cycle or "velo" tourism contributes $134 million annually to the provincial economy.

Toronto, Ottawa and Niagara Falls have all been promoting cycle tourism for some time and currently, Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury are working on a connecting link.  Closer to home, the Kinghorn line, formerly a CN rail corridor over 100 km long is been studied by a consortium of partners lead by the Trans Canada Trail group for the transition to a four season trail network connecting Thunder Bay to Nipigon.  The route has incredible potential, not only for its sweeping course through the boreal forest but also for the inclusion of the pass lake trestle, adding an incredibly unique scenic element to the route.  Now that spring is here, its not that hard to find bikes on cars, trucks, SUVs and RVs all over the city many with out of Province plates.  Its simply a growing trend we need to accommodate.

Sadly, our Provincial Ministry of Transportation in the Northwest has not included shoulders of any kind along the TransCanada in its enhancement projects nor has been willing to entertain parallel bike routes along right of ways - in essence taking a bigger picture approach to the corridors as transportation corridors and not just automobile corridors.  A current master transportation study for the North hopefully begins to address this and look at transportation more holistically moving into the future.

We're looking forward to the development of a regional cycle tourism strategy and seeing further investments, both public and private sector - made over the long term to strengthen our tourism brand as a premier outdoor city that values authentic and fun visitor experiences. It all adds to increased value in our brand and more visitors tot he community over the long run.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Tourism Thunder Bay has launched the first three in an ongoing series of new HD experiential videos showcasing some of Thunder Bay's most iconic visitor experiences.

Set against the backdrop of Prince Arthur's Landing as part of our tourism week open house, we welcomed over forty tourism industry representatives from around the community to enjoy persians, coffee, networking and of course, the launch of the new videos and the Youtube platform that anchors them.

These new digital assets replace our last video production, cobbled together four years ago and already outdated given changes to the tourism landscape.

Working with our creative agency Generator Advertising, Imaginarium Studios and Dining Room Studios, the total project from inception to launch was a little over 14 months.  We're proud to have been able to completely support our local cultural industries in the production of this.  The three launch videos were shot at over 46 locations and used 100 actors and over 100 extras.  Sound, provided by Dining Room Studios featured the works of local musician Jean Paul DeRoover.

What makes these videos particularly valuable is that they serve a purpose vastly different from traditional municipal promotion videos that featured identifiable businesses and focused on the "place".  Careful consideration was given to focus on the experience in the emotional sense, the human element of people enjoying the experiences.  Remember that the bast majority of people plan their travel for an experience, with the geological destination being the secondary deciding factor.

The video also factored in the careful avoidance of identifiable local businesses.  I was asked about this this morning as to why more individual businesses were not high lighted. The reality is that the tourism landscape changes with partners coming and going. As soon as an identifiable partner leaves the business scene, the video loses relevance quickly.  With over 1300 tourism related businesses, its difficult to feature every single one.

Its also important to remember that this project is not static and we're already planning the next chapters including cultural events and attractions, culinary, sport tourism and a convention planning video tool.  There is a lot to cover and we aim to continue adding content over the long term.

The videos, in Youtube and Vimeo channels as well as on DVD, are available for free use by our community's tourism partners.  Its already been posted to the VisitThunderBay's  facebook page, on twitter and is received significant media attention today from local and regional news media.

A big thanks goes out to Generator's Jack Hudolin, Barry Smith, Robin Moss, Heather Cranston and Maureen Mills.  The project could not have been executed without the exceptional talent of Piotr and Milosz at Imaginarium and the gang at Dining Room Studios.  The could not have been done without Tourism Thunder Bay's Marketing and Partnership Coordinator, Rose Marie Mancusa, who stick handled this from start to finish. 

Last but not least is our tourism partners who took the video and will be adding it to their websites, social feeds and hotel lobby screens to help promote the city.

Stay tuned for more videos over the next two years and also the inclusion of great visitor made video selected for the channel.  In the meantime, enjoy.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


The first full week of June marks Tourism Week in Ontario. 

Being on the cusp of the start of the busy summer leisure and VFR season, its a chance to remind our communities of the economic importance of tourism.  In Thunder Bay, we welcome over 527 000 visitors annually, which in turn generates over $127 million annually in direct receipts.  Almost 1300 businesses, ranging from hotels, attractions, retail, culinary and related services rely in whole or in part on visitors for their living.  Thousands are employed as a result ranging from summer student and seasonal positions to entrepreneurs, career culinary and management positions. 

The tourism industry is critical to our community's cultural fabric.  It helps shape capital infrastructure investments such as Prince Arthur's Landing and the proposed new Multiplex, it helps influence public art and support of our cultural industries, and it makes a strong case for the beautification of our community that builds a sense of local community pride.  At the end of the day, all of these elements help create a platform to support entrepreneurship in the development of new and enhanced visitor experiences.

One gratifying thing a hear more and more from folks is just how much Thunder Bay is evolving since their last visit.  One of my favorite little games is to drive around the city with "visitor goggles" and see the city from a visitor perspective.  Driving around and looking at the investments in public art and gardens, road rehabilitation and street cleaning, spectacular public architecture, trails, bike lanes, new culinary influences, enhanced business improvement areas, airport expansion, and so forth

Yesterday I had the privilege to spend the day with fellow members of a group called the "Heart of the Continent", a bi national forum of Minnesota and Ontario tourism, parks and community leaders working in collaboration with one another to enhance our economic development and conservation efforts in a sustainable economic development framework.  The region encompasses an area from Duluth to Thunder Bay over to Fort Frances/International Falls.  I took them on a tour of the new Prince Arthur's Landing and it was spine tingling to hear the responses from our Duluth tourism partners who were incredibly impressed with what we have accomplished in short time frame.  The balance of public and private spaces and investments achieved is truly a model to showcase and be proud of.

This week we're offering a few events to celebrate tourism week and remind local citizens and business partners of the importance of tourism in pour community. 

Monday June 4th sees the start of our spring tourism education road trip, an all day education session for front line tourism partners.  Provided by Lake Superior Visits with lunch generously sponsored by the Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel and Suites, this all day motor coach road trip explores the various areas of the city.  We have a full bus load this year representing over 15 tourism businesses who see the value of having well trained front line staff who can play concierge and help visitors explore the city's hidden gems and major attractions.  This all aids in visitor retention.  If we can encourage our 527 000 visitors already coming to the city to spend as little as an extra ten bucks on a lunch or hand crafted pair of earrings or some country market produce, we're injecting over $5 million new dollars into the local economy, creating employment for up to 75 people.  That's easy to do and delivers big results.

On June 6th, we'll be launching the first three episodes of our new hi definition promotional videos and Youtube Channel.  I'm not going to let any cats out of bags quite yet but we're pretty impressed with the year long collection of imagery.

On June 8th, look for your copy of "My TBay" citizen newsletter featuring a centre spread encouraging local residents to get out and explore their community and play host to their friends and family this summer.

For our local and regional tourism partners, its a great week to celebrate and reflect on your contribution to tourism.  Here's looking forward to a successful summer ahead.