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Mine tour delivers payload of tourists.

The City of Timmins is hoping that a former mining site will still be able to deliver a payload in tourism dollars.

The Timmins Gold Mine Tour received $989,150 in funding from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund this year for an expansion.

The addition of a prospector's trail, a panning for gold display, a viewing ramp, a multi-use building, three statues, an underground exhibit and safety fencing will take three years to complete.

The tour was established at the former Hollinger Mine site in 1990 with $390,000 from the heritage fund and $40,000 from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.

It is hoped the expansion will help make the city a more popular tourism destination. Results so far indicate that the tour is having a positive impact.

Karen Guillemette, the coordinator of the Timmins Visitors and Convention Bureau, says tourism has increased by 10 per cent this year. Last year 6,000 visitors took the Gold Mine Tour.

Marty Peterson of the James Bay Frontier Travel Association reports that 3,900 visitors have been through the tour between the end of July last year and Aug. 1 of this year.

Based on these numbers, Peterson says it is easy to predict that the tour will surpass last year's numbers.

"Hopefully some day the gold mine tour will be as big as the Polar Bear Express or Science North," says Guillemette.

She says Timmins is working closely with other northeastern Ontario communities to market the tour as one of the Cities of the North tourism destinations.

"We have to work together with these other major attractions for the benefit of the north," she explains.

Cities of the North is a marketing group made up of representatives from North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Timmins and the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.

Future tourism projects now being considered by Timmins include a geological centre and a $4.7-million railroad theme park. The Porcupine Railroad Association has been looking to develop a site near the underground gold mine tour.

The geological centre was recommended by a steering committee formed to investigate the creation of a Prospectors and Developers Hall of Fame. The centre would be developed in co-operation with the Mining Hall of Fame in Toronto.

"What they had in mind was a travelling road show, and we wanted something more interactive with a hands-on facility," Guillemette explains.

The project is currently in the feasibility stage, and several locations are being investigated.

YEAR-ROUND TOURISM

Attempts are also being made to make Timmins a year-round tourism destination.

For example, Kamiskotia Ski Resorts Ltd. celebrated its 25th anniversary last season with the completion of a $2.3-million expansion. The project included the addition of a base lodge, two quad chair lifts and new snow-grooming and snow-making equipment.

The marketing of the resort was aimed at the immediate area of northeastern Ontario, but an increase in skiers from Sudbury came as a pleasant surprise.

"It's a market we didn't expect to see," admits resort manager Dave Cormier.

However, Cormier admits that the total number of skiers increased only slightly last season.

"It wasn't as much as was expected. The recession dropped the numbers," he explains.

Snowmobiling is an integral part of the operation at Kamiskotia. Efforts are now under way to link up the 440 kilometres of trails around the city to other trails in Northern Ontario.

Snowmobile clubs in Mountjoy and Porcupine have joined together as the Timmins Trail Association to create a linkup with other northern communities.

However, a major roadblock standing in their way is that there is a ban on snowmobiling on Timmins streets.

Timmins also has an active cross-country ski club. The Porcupine Ski Runners operate 30 kilometres of groomed track of which nine are distinctly marked and between 1.25 kilometres and 17 kilometres in length.

The club hosted the Northern Ontario Championships as well as the Ontario Championships earlier this year, and it is now working to attract the Eastern Canadian Championships.

PRIMARY MARKET

Timmins' major market for tourists remains Ontario. In-province travel accounts for 80 per cent of the city's tourism.

Guillemette explains that the current market trend is for people to take more frequent, shorter trips.

James Bay Frontier reports that area tourist outfitters are holding their own despite the bad weather this summer.

"They are holding their own based on mostly last-minute bookings," says Peterson.

He says there is still a large demand for hunting and fishing by Americans who are now travelling further north in search of game.

However, there is a decline in the number of American tourists visiting the city, notes Guillemette. She attributes this to two things.

"The GST and price of gasoline are discouraging because they (Americans) are travelling greater distances. It is also an election year, and people don't want to leave because they might miss something," she explains.

Peterson reports that the Polar Bear Express tour train has been recording an 11-per-cent increase in business because the thrust of Ontario Northland's marketing campaign was switched this year from the U.S. to southern Ontario.

He also indicates that there has been an increase in the number of Europeans visiting the area.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Report on Timmins
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Words:865
Previous Article:Mine supply firms overcome lost contracts.
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