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City of Thunder Bay aims to jumpstart corporate travel with Bring it Here campaign

Corporate travel like meetings and conferences make up about 25 per cent of local tourism economy.
Thunder Bay Bring it Here campaign
The Bring it Here campaign launched by Thunder Bay Tourism looks to jump-start corporate travel to the city. (City of Thunder Bay)

THUNDER BAY — The City of Thunder Bay is looking to jumpstart corporate travel to the city with a new digital ad campaign dubbed Bring it Here.

It may not be the flashiest form of tourism, but conferences and meetings make up about a quarter of the local tourism and travel economy, with about a $45 million to $50 million impact in a typical pre-COVID year, according to City of Thunder Bay tourism manager Paul Pepe.

With the Bring it Here campaign, Pepe hopes to plug Thunder Bay’s attributes in hosting small to medium sized events, from board meetings to conventions and conferences.

The campaign features a 90-second video by local firm Generator showcasing the city's event spaces and natural beauty.

“It’s really to encourage people to think about human connections replacing internet connections… and the importance of meeting in person,” he said.

“We have a lot of advantages as a smaller city in attracting the meetings and conference sector back, and the trend over the next couple of years is going to be smaller meetings, smaller events, and that’s a market we do very well with here in Thunder Bay.”

The city can handle meetings of up to around 500 people, he said.

While the national social media campaign is aimed largely at professional event planners, a local version of the campaign, Bring it Home, appeals to local residents to consider if organizations they’re part of could gather in Thunder Bay as in-person events return.

“It’s a great opportunity for locals to be advocates and champions for the return of meetings and conventions, and to welcome their colleagues from across the region, Ontario, Canada, internationally even, to come and meet here in Thunder Bay.”

Thunder Bay tends to do well in attracting corporate events in the public sector, not-for-profits, mining, natural resources, education, life sciences, and Indigenous business and leadership sectors, he said

“Those are our main targets we work with, but it’s open to anybody –— we have church groups, we have mining conferences, all sorts of social organizations, businesses, government agencies, fire training, you name it.”

The campaign is a recognition that corporate travel was the hardest-hit during the pandemic, and that it’s likely to take a while — Pepe estimates two to four years — to recover.

 “A lot of organizations are still doing hybrid [meetings], for a host of reasons — some people just aren’t ready to travel yet, and budgets for a lot of organizations are very constrained right now, too,” he said.

“But countering that is the fact that there really is no replacement for face-to-face dialogue sometimes, there’s a hunger [for that]. There’s a mental health aspect to meeting in person, as well — people are Zoomed out over the last two years.”

The campaign also highlights the financial incentives available to hold events in the city. Planners can apply to the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC)’s Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) fund for incentives worth up to 25 per cent of event costs.

More information is available at the campaign’s website.

— TBNewswatch