With the finalization of its updated tourism plan this spring, Timmins has made it clear it’s taking an active approach to tourism. Tourism Timmins wants to attract more visitors, and it’s narrowed its focus to meetings and conventions, sports tourism, festivals and events, and outdoor attractions.
The change has involved a physical move as well as a branding exercise: Guy Lamarche, who was formerly located downtown at the municipal headquarters, has relocated to the city’s welcome centre, which has been rebranded the Timmins Convention Bureau and Visitor Welcome Centre.
“We’ve redefined what the typical travel information service is today to what it was yesterday,” said Lamarche, the city’s manager of tourism, events and communications. “So we’re not only servicing visitors, but we’re also assisting the hospitality industry with some of their requirements.”
The annual travel guide, printed in both French and English, outlines activities, festivals and events happening throughout the year. Representation in the guide is free to anyone, with a goal of enticing potential guests with as much selection as possible.
“You’re trying to compete with jurisdictions that are also on the consumer’s radar, and the consumer is obviously going to have second thoughts about going to an area that has two hotels, one restaurant and very little else.
“By inviting the hospitality sector to promote experiences through packaging, we’re in a position to provide consumers with enough goods and services to make Timmins a travel destination worth considering.”
The guide also features 30 all-inclusive vacation packages that marry a stay at a local hotel with activities such as golfing or skiing.
New this year, Tourism Timmins is focusing on meetings, conventions and conferences. Lamarche said the group wants to tap into a larger share of the annual conventions and conferences that travel annually around to different Northern Ontario cities.
A recent spate of hotel builds over the last few years has increased capacity for the city, allowing it to go after more of the business, he noted, and two more hotels are potentially being built in the city.
“If those hotels come here, make no mistake: Tourism Timmins will be challenged by the hotel industry to put heads in beds, so we’d better be at the ready,” Lamarche said. “Are we at the ready? We’re not there yet, but I think we’re making some inroads.”
A complementary resource guide targetting planners outlines venue and accommodation details for meetings, conventions, and sports tourism, including locations, square footage and amenities throughout the city.
A longer term plan calls for the potential construction of a brand-new multi-pad sports facility, including a pool, and the transformation of the historic McIntyre Arena—which currently hosts everything from mining conventions to roller derby bouts—into a venue reserved solely as a conference venue.
“That would be an arena that would be specifically there to host concerts, to host conventions, to host things that we currently cannot host because we don’t have those facilities,” Lamarche said.
Parking passes, which give visitors free parking at any of the city’s meters, provide an added incentive to get out of their hotel rooms and explore the city, he said.
The passes, along with the guides, a portfolio and lanyard, are given out to every delegate coming to town for a meeting or convention.
On the events end of things, the Great Canadian Kayak Challenge is coming up to its sixth year, while the Summer Concert Series is in its third year. Both have experienced growth since starting out, attracting additional programing and bigger name performers.
In 2015 Timmins will host a celebration of the quadricentenary of francophone culture in Ontario. A steering committee is currently working on ideas for the event, which will begin with St. Jean Baptiste Day and end with the kayak festival.
Lamarche said all this is helping the city to slowly starting to rebuild its tourism capacity.
“I think there have been quite a few noticeable changes that have been appreciated by the industry, by the tourists that have wanted to visit here,” he said. “For the longest time we had nothing to entice visitors to the city. Now we have first-rate brochures, updated and functional websites, a social media presence — all great resources to help us tell our story.”