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Tourism officials predict market upswing.

North Bay attracts $60 million per year in tourist expenditures, but to keep these tourists and their dollars coming to the city more attractions are needed.

A $40-million destination attraction called Heritage North and a $23-million convention centre complex have been identified as two projects which would generate more tourism and convention business in North Bay.

However, these projects are long-term goals and both hinge on the city being able to convince Canadian Pacific Railway to sell its waterfront rail-yard for redevelopment, says Ross Kenzie, North Bay's tourism and convention officer.

"These plans are tied to the railway lands, and until CP Rail moves, nothing else moves," Kenzie comments.

North Bay experienced a slight decrease in tourist traffic in the past two years, and the occupancy rate at the city's hotels declined to 69 per cent last year from a high of 89 per cent in 1988.

However, Kenzie is predicting a "slow and gradual" improvement in the market.

Ted Day, executive director of the Almaguin-Nipissing Travel Association (Ontario's Near North), is even more optimistic.

"Everybody in the area says they can see the light ahead. People will always take holidays. They (tourists) want some quality time away from things," he says.

Day says his travel association wants to capitalize on the area's many snowmobile trails to promote Ontario's Near North as an all-seasons tourist destination.

"Snowmobiling is increasing, and we had a strong winter season because we had a fair amount of snow this year," he says.

Day also believes that Ontario's Near North should be capitalizing more on its accessibility to the southern Ontario market.

Kenzie's department, meanwhile, spends approximately $186,000 annually promoting North Bay to tourists. This money is spent primarily on making people in southern Ontario aware of what North Bay has to offer.

According to Kenzie, that effort is resulting in increased use of the city's $10-million, mile-long beach, park and marina development on Lake Nipissing. However, he sees more potential for activities such as sailing, water skiing and canoeing.

Kenzie also believes that there is potential in marketing existing events such as the Bonfield Seedpie Festival.

This year American visitors to North Bay will be greeted by a collection of signs indicating the rate of currency exchange from U.S. to Canadian dollars.

The signs are part of a program called Fair Exchange conceived last year by a group of local business owners chaired by Phil Richardson of The Richardson Group.

The idea behind the campaign is to assure American visitors that they will receive a fair and consistent exchange rate throughout North Bay.

"This will have the benefit that American visitors will feel they have been fairly treated and want to come back again," explains Richardson.

Last year there were 750 business outlets in the city displaying the Fair Exchange sign, and the daily exchange rate was also published in the North Bay Nugget.

While new Journey's End, Relax Inn and Venture Inn hotels are welcome additions to the city, Kenzie admits that North Bay still does not receive its share of convention business because of limited room capacity.
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Title Annotation:North Bay Report; North Bay, Ontario
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:Developer remains optimistic.
Next Article:City negotiates for rail lands.

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