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The focus of tourism marketing shifts to the family.

When it comes to attracting tourists to the Sudbury Region, the focus is no longer on hunting or fishing in this wilderness geography.

Instead, thanks in part to economic and social evolution, attracting families is the key, says Eric Downey, executive director of the Rainbow Country Travel Association.

Rainbow Country is the umbrella group for tourism operations from Massey to Gogama, including Sudbury and Manitoulin Island.

The Sudbury Region is entering the third year of a co-operative campaign which promotes Sudbury's big city conveniences nestled in an accessible wilderness.

Tourism has had to change to accommodate the two-career family. With both partners working at different careers, often they want to vacation together with their family. And that means an increased demand for family-type attractions, Downey says.

Rainbow Country has invested heavily in advertising over the past two years. During the summer months it promotes the area in the major newspapers of Toronto, Buffalo and Cleveland, as well as in smaller publications.

"And (through this) we're overcoming the belief that we're so far away," says Downey.

Downey believes tourism in Rainbow Country has increased - in spite of the economy - because its main centres, such as Sudbury, are now more visible and more attractive than ever before.

Tourism throughout Rainbow Country was up 17 per cent in 1990 and an additional 20 per cent in 1991. Those figures are based on visits to the association's 10 information centres in its 15,000-square-mile area.

The majority of the visitors were from southern Ontario. Americans are still making the trip from such states as Ohio and Michigan, but they are caught between a desire to visit northern Canada and a persuasive, stay-at-home policy in the U.S.

According to Downey, Sudbury is reaping the benefits of the increased popularity of four- and five-day spontaneous vacations. The region has become a popular destination for long-weekend get-aways.

Nickel City is no longer viewed as being too far to drive from Toronto.

ATTENDANCE DECLINES

The main attraction to Sudbury remains the city's crown jewels - Science North and the Big Nickel Mine.

Celebrating its eighth birthday in June, Science North is largely responsible for Sudbury attracting the most tourists of any city its size in North America.

However, the past two years have not been the best.

After four years of growth, attendance has declined, especially at the Big Nickel Mine, says Jim Marchbank, the centre's chief administrator.

Science North's best year was 1989, when it recorded 286,000 visits. In 1991, however, Science North recorded only 179,266 visits and the Big Nickel had 58,260.

Marchbank estimates that half of the total number of visits were by local residents. Nevertheless, he believes the results were good, considering the economic times.

"If you check with the industry, the trend was to decline. So for us to hold our own in that type of climate is a good result," he says.

He expects that the economy will make a modest recovery later this year.

Science North is already planning for better economic times. Ownership of Bell Grove Arena transfers to Science North in April. The arena will eventually be renovated to provide much needed exhibit space. With this space, Science North can host bigger and better shows, Marchbank says.

And with improved attractions, more local residents - Science North's bread and butter - will visit more often, he adds.

IMMEDIATE HOPE

Hopes for a more immediate renewed interest are being pinned on a new movie for the Cavern at Science North.

In June Science North will replace its three-dimensional movie, Wilderness, with a new film called Shooting Star.

This $2-million project sent Science North crews to Australia and Iceland. Using sound, light and objects in the Cavern, the movie traces the evolution of the geology of Northern Ontario.

The movie and physical upgrading are all part of Science North's renewal.

"The things we're doing to help ourselves will see an increase (in attendance)," says Marchbank.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sudbury Report
Author:Young, Laura E.
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Words:655
Previous Article:Moderate to strong year predicted for residential construction sector.
Next Article:Popular 'family sport' benefits local tourism industry.
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