Opportunity awaits for tourism magnets

Thunder Bay, Ont. — If you have an attraction that will enhance visitor experiences in Thunder Bay, Tourism Thunder Bay wants to hear about it.

Attractions Ontario, which is the provincial marketing and industry advocacy group for the attraction sector, represents more than 500 member attractions across Ontario, said Paul Pepe, manager of Tourism Thunder Bay and vice-chairman of the Attractions Ontario board.

“One of the things we’ve talked about for a number of years is how we can get better Northern Ontario engagement within this provincial organization, so a few years ago, we initiated a membership drive,” he said.

“We came up with a three-year incentive plan where we will pay the full membership cost for the first year of a new local Thunder Bay attraction. The second year will pay 50 per cent of their membership and then the third year they pay the full 100 per cent.”

Pepe says it’s an opportunity for attractions locally to be involved with Attractions Ontario, which has a large marketing reach through an annual passport guide and a popular interactive website across Ontario and Quebec, and in the border states.

“This was a way for us to grow the northern presence and make sure that we bolster Northern Ontario’s attraction sector,” he said.

“It’s really about making sure that Ontario is fully represented and that Northern Ontario businesses can showcase all the things that are across the North that the southern Ontario and border state markets may not always know about from an attractions perspective.”

Pepe added that there are conversations going on with the lodge industry in Northern Ontario to become members of Attractions Ontario because fishing and wilderness lodges are also considered attractions.

Northwestern Ontario attractions consist of a wide range of initiatives, including Fort William Historical Park, Sail Superior, the Terry Fox Visitor Centre, Mount McKay lookout, Kakabeka Falls, and Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

“We can look at business improvement areas, such as the Waterfront District as an attraction,” Pepe said. “Anything that really draws people to an area, is their motivation for travelling to a city, an area that helps extend what people can do or that extends their length of stay in a community is considered an attraction.”

He says when looking at attractions in a broader sense, lodges, parks, trails and even civic events form part of the overall attraction ecosystem in Thunder Bay.

“It’s about bolstering the membership base and that density of what there is to actually see and do across Northern Ontario while promoting and marketing it on a larger scale in Ontario,” he said. “It’s also about advocating for good provincial and federal policy to help the attraction sector recover and grow post-COVID by articulating the economic importance of Ontario’s attractions sector.”

Pepe explained that funding for the initiative comes from Tourism Thunder Bay’s share of the municipal accommodation tax through the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC). The four-per cent tax from the hotels collected by the city is shared between the city and the CEDC for numerous business projects.

The CEDC has funded 37 projects in the community.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal