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Thunder bay goes 'unconventional': conference tourism guide promotes the total experience.

A new-and-improved meetings and convention planning guide is providing a much-needed jolt of energy-to Thunder Bay's already thriving conference business, said the city's head tourism official.

The print and online publication waS ' designed to capture the spirit of the northwestern Ontario city in promoting its wide range of both large and more intimate gathering space, its outdoor space and its ethnic diversity

The convention market is "hugely competitive, " said Tourism Thunder Bay manager Paul Pepe, and creating a stunning visual identity with a new guide and online presence will set the city apart from other communities.

Last year, Tourism Thunder Bay launched a new meeting and convention strategy selling the northwestern Ontario city as the 'Unconventional Convention Destination.'

Pepe said the strategy keys on the city's connection to its inspiring natural environment as a one-of-a-kind meeting location and all the things to see and do.

One element in the new guide is the fine dining scene.

"We've enhanced the focus on the key convention hotels, by highlighting the culinary elements of the conference experience by interviewing the executive chefs of each property" said Pepe.

The city department is promoting the city's unique meeting venues for corporate events such as Fort William Historical Park and encouraging guests to wrap outdoor activities such as fishing, sailing and kayaking around their events,

Pepe said their strategy is regional in scope, and specifically targets key sectors in mining, health sciences, education, nongovernmental organizations, municipal and First Nation organizations.

"These are groups that have a reason to do business in the city and have local presences to bid and organize conferences," said Pepe. "Our local community organizations are critical to bidding on successful conferences, and we work closely with them to provide them with tools and advice they need to win those bids."

But they're not just promoting city meeting places, but outdoor escapes in places such as Red Rock and Nipigon for corporate retreats,

Pepe said at national convention planner shows, they're pushing Thunder Bay's improved scheduled air service to southern Ontario, Ottawa and Manitoba. Money from the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership enabled them to sell the city through inflight print and digital media with the five carriers that service the city.

He hopes the new conference guide will be a great resource and a page-turner for conference organizers.

Pepe, who doubles as the city's, interim waterfront manager, has placed Prince Arthur's Landing, the mega-million dollar harbour revitalization project on the guide's cover. He said the publication is a point of pride and a work of passion by his staff.

"I actually took the helm of the sailboat in the cover pic to ensure we were exactly in the right spot at the right time for the right emotional shot. We shot it about eight times, and I think I made everyone onboard dizzy as we kept zipping around while Rose Marie Mancusa, our marketing co-ordinator, was on shore yelling directions to me and the photographer"

The early response from tourism partners and potential clients has borne itself out in the sheer volume of queries through Pepe's office and in the high hotel occupancy rates during the so-called shoulder seasons of fall and spring.

Pepe also paid credit to local reinvestments in properties by hotel and motel operators, as well as new developments that's added rooms to the city's inventory. That speaks to "the industry's commitment to meeting the increased demand in this segment,"



Northern Ontario Business
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS TRAVEL
Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Conference news
Date:Feb 1, 2012
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