Thunder Bay International Airport Authority announced that United Airlines will begin daily direct service from Chicago's O Hare Airport to Thunder Bay beginning February 14, 2013.
This is great news for our tourism industry on a lot of different levels and the teams at the Thunder Bay International Airport Authority and United each deserve a huge applause for working diligently towards bringing this service to the city and region.
As many know, I'm a big advocate of brand alignment in advancing our community's tourism reputation and that can successfully occur on both passive and active levels. United has a global presence, strong brand recognition and an extensive network of cities served. Chicago's O Hare is one of the world's busiest airports and located itself in a major catchment area of some 8.5 million consumers. The connectivity to this market through United raises our reputation as a "go to" destination. As news of the new service was circulating this week, I've had discussions with provincial tourism colleagues and consumers from across North America commenting to me how positive this news is and how this development reflects positively on the community.
Chicago has long been a major source market for the region's angling and hunting experiences and its massive population coupled with its weathering of the recent US economic downturn has made it an attractive market to pursue. Our industry made huge marketing cuts in the wake of the events of 2001 and this market, regrettable, lost a lot of market penetration. New regional tourism investments has allowed the industry to capture some of that market back. United offers a quicker way to get here fromt he U.S. markets, saving anglers, hunters, kayakers, canoeists, campers and hikers a minimum10 hour drive in each direction.
The air connectivity allows our angling and broad outdoor industry to reach out to a broader market of avid enthusiasts willing to travel a longer distance for that epic experience. Thunder Bay is a hub to Lake Superior water adventures, stunning scenic coastal touring, accessible wildlife viewing and hundreds of thousands of angling lakes served by hundred of angling resorts. These experiences are what we do best and there is a market further afield than the 8 hour drive radius who put a value on these experiences. United opens us up to the entire United States market and beyond, allowing our experience focused campaigns to target avid consumers more precisely.
Better air connectivity helps us reach them and our city can improve its role as a hub providing accommodation, rental vehicles, supplies and culinary experiences to these visitors before they head out into the region.
United's arrival in the city will be a convenience for local and regional travellers heading south. Thunder Bay's accommodation and culinary industries will benefit from this outbound market as much as for the inbound traveller. Given that we're the hub for a regional catchment area of some 40 000 residents and a lot of them seek sun destinations, we can expect some increases in winter leisure traffic through our community as a result, perhaps as many as an additional 2000 to 4000 room nights annually
United begins daily service on February 14, 2013 arriving at 8:40 PM utilizing 50 seat CRJ200 jets. The inaugural departure will be at 6 AM, February 15th and continue daily on that schedule.
Welcome United. We look forward to working with you!