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Investment in tourism paying off.

Thunder Bay is beginning to show signs of reaching its potential as a tourist destination, with the industry providing $340 million in annual revenues to the local economy.

The development of a cohesive marketing strategy and attempts to attract investment in facilities are also starting to pay off.

Tourism actually increased during the first half of the 1992 summer season despite the province's prediction that northwestern Ontario tourism would decline by 10 per cent this year, reports Patricia Forrest, manager of the city's visitor and convention bureau.

Forrest attributes the increase to a co-operative marketing campaign undertaken last year by the city, the private sector and provincial and federal governments. The campaign reached five million potential American and Canadian visitors.

Thunder Bay's famous Sleeping Giant landmark, meanwhile, has lent his name to the city's new strategic tourism enhancement project - Giant STEPs.

Project chairman John Ranta calls Giant STEPs the single most important plank in the city's effort to diversify. The primary aim of the project is to change Thunder Bay from a tourist stop-over to a legitimate four-seasons destination.

"People are staying one or two days at the most. We feel there is enough here to make them stay longer," he says.

He admits that the objective was to encourage local, provincial and federal governments to fund tourism development.

"We see tourism as most important in regards to economic diversification," he explains.

As part of the project, Randolph Management Associates Group and Kenneth Caplan and Associates Limited of Toronto are working with Anderson Management Services Inc. of Thunder Bay to create a priorized list of tourism initiatives.

In the meantime, visitors to Thunder Bay's Old Fort William will be greeted by a recently completed $5-million welcome centre called Rendezvous Place. The centre includes an information booth, a gift shop and a restaurant.

The next planned project involves the restoration of the historic tugboat called the James Whalen. It is hoped that a public campaign will raise the $150,000 required to transform the tug into a floating nautical museum.

Hosting the World Nordic Ski Championships in 1995 will give Thunder Bay its best opportunity to date at marketing itself internationally.

Forrest says the profile of the city's winter product has never been better, and the city would be foolish not to capitalize on it.

While she admits that the bureau is presently running only "a somewhat modest (winter) campaign," it has plans to increase the budget towards 1995.

The bureau spends $192,000 in media advertising in an attempt to spread the word to a market of 15 million people.

This summer the bureau hopes to reach 883,000 people in Northern Ontario, Western Canada and Winnipeg alone. However, Forrest notes that the number of visitors from the southern U.S. States is increasing.

"They are coming for clean air and scenery and a city with all the amenities," she says.

The bureau's media campaign includes advertising in the American Automobile Association's Home and Away publication, Minnesota Monthly, Michigan Living, Wisconsin AAA, and Canada: The World Next Door.

In addition, the bureau is advertising in Northern Ontario Business, the Globe and Mail and the Winnipeg Free Press in an effort to convince business travellers to extend their stays in Thunder Bay.

"It is clearly a growing market," says Forrest.

Increasing the city's convention activity is another goal for this year.

"We have been reported as one of the 14 prime locations in Canada for conventions," says Forrest. "Thunder Bay is accessible, and we get a number of conventions."

The traditional markets of the U.S. Mid-West and Manitoba are the focus for the marketing efforts of the Thunder Bay-based North of Superior Tourism Association.

"What (tourists) want is the cleanliness and the wide-open appeal of Northern Ontario," explains association manager Bruce Hole. "They like to see the sky, and most of these people are from the concrete jungles of the Mid-West cities."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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