Tuesday, August 28, 2012

U.S. Visitor Traffic to Thunder Bay on the Increase This Year

It is a pretty significant fact that we are a forty five minute drive from the U.S. border and a source market in excess of three hundred and thirty million people.  Despite conditions of the past decade, the U.S. market continues to be important to us.  However, this market has declined over the past decade in a world of security and economic issues, coupled with inconsistent marketing investments to keep our region top of mind.

In light of the slow US economy, passport requirements, border security, high fuel prices and an at par currency, you'll have to understand if we're a little giddy today in the Tourism Thunder Bay office.

The second quarter border crossing statistics came in this week and to the end of June 2012, U.S. visitors to Thunder Bay through the Pigeon River border crossing have increased by 3.5% or about 1068 persons.  While not explosive year over year growth, its slow and steady as the old tortoise versus hare fable goes, and that's what wins the race. 

While same day traffic declined, it was the important overnight visits that increased, improving hotel performance in what is already a strong urban market.  These longer stays translate into increased economic impacts for our community and region and speak to a desire for avid travellers to explore in greater depth. From an economic impact perspective, this translates to approximately $370 596 in new visitor spending and a total economic impact including the multiplier effect of about $592 953.  Overall, that's a pretty good return early on even before the critically important July and August travel data is reported.  By about late October, we'll have a good sense of the true impact of the new investments being made. 

With approximately $1.1 million in new regional tourism marketing investments being made across Northwestern Ontario in the fishing, hunting, broad outdoors, convention, sports tourism and motor touring segments, its encouraging to see some early wins.  From our early indicators, the majority of this upswing is related to touring and outdoor adventure segment campaigns specifically into the United States totalling approximately $275 000.  This included the popular "Ride Lake Superior" motorcycle program, enhanced broad outdoor campaigns targeting Minnesota and Wisconsin and wider reaching US avid outdoor media channels.  We've also been able to host far more media familiarization trips, and build new relationships with US media such as Northern Wilds, Lake Superior Magazine and AAA media channels to grow interest in the area.  Tying the natural environment to the highway corridors is critical to maximizing visitor attraction.  Most travellers are outdoor enthusiasts but very few want to really rough it.  trails and waterfalls, birding, beaches and so forth are all huge draws but visitors want a good meal and comfy bed too.  communicating the epic-ness of Lake Superior - and our hundreds of thousands of other lakes too - will be critical to growing our markets.

The majority of the Northwest's angling traffic flows through Fort Frances so we'll be watching those numbers closely as well and reporting on the broader impacts.

The regional approach to partnership building is critical to continuing to build on these early successes and together with partners like Sunset Country Travel Association, Algoma Kinnewabi Travel and our friends in Northern Minnesota, we'll continue to work together to make the visitor pie bigger for everyone by focusing on epic experiences worth the distance. 

After all, how far would you travel for the perfect outdoor vacation?

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