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Georgian Bay visitors' guide on the shelves.

Parry Sound tourism officials are looking for new ways to market the 30,000 Islands area as more than just a one-season destination.

Promoting the area's schedule of annual and seasonal events is outlined in the new 2008/2009 Georgian Bay Visitors Guide.

The Georgian Bay Country tourism marketing organization is distributing 70,000 copies of things to do and places to stay in the Georgian Bay area to Ontario Travel Centres, Muskoka and locations throughout the northeastern United States.

The annual guide, released every April, is now a slimmed down pocket guide listing area waterways, marinas, boating, fishing, diving, skiing, ATVing, and other recreational opportunities.

The town received a nice plug last year from Explore magazine listing Parry Sound as one of Canada's top 10 outdoor communities in their "Small Towns, Big Escapes" annual special.

That kind of positive press has tourism officials excited about marketing the town as a viable four-season destination that can be promoted internationally.

Conferences and sporting events have become huge business for the Parry Sound area. Hosting the world and national Enduro dirt bike championships the last two years and again later this year adds to the 1.2 million annual visitors to the area.

Georgian Bay Country manager Kelly Krist says the completion of the four-laning of Highway 69/400 has produced a noticeable increase in day-trippers attending festivals, taking in cruises on Georgian Bay and hiking on area trials.

Georgian Bay Country is the area's tourism marketing arm taking in the area from Port Severn to Killarney along with the inland communities of West Parry Sound.

Tourism ministry stats show the majority of visitors spend one or more nights with 75 per cent involved in some kind of outdoor activity.

Most come from the Greater Toronto Area taking in events like the Festival of the Sound at the waterfront Stockey Centre.

"The Stockey is a huge pull for our region," says Krist. "It's one of the largest reasons people come to our area."

One of the residuals of the highway four laning and realignment has been the construction of a new Travel Centre just south of town.

Owned by Windswept Investments, the centre greets about two million motorists every year thanks to better highway signage, greater visibility and easier off-ramp access.

The Georgian Bay Country Visitor's Centre located within the plaza of commercial and retail mix has a new manager in place, features more local merchandise and has an interactive mapping component providing directions to local businesses.

A new marketing committee is mapping out ways to attract more conferences by building on a previous success in hosting a Great Lakes Mayors' Conference and their future plans to stage a Georgian Bay biosphere reserve conference.


Northern Ontario Business
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Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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