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.

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