By Frank Scarcello
The community of Fort Frances has launched an extensive study to identify tourism opportunities.
Re-Inventing Fort Frances is expected to generate some makeover ideas and strategies to make the town more tourist friendly.
The study will cost $130,000 and is funded by all three levels of government. A tourism development committee has been active for the last year and recently selected a Winnipeg consulting firm to conduct the study.
“We have over a million people cross our border into Canada annually; we estimate approximately half of them are tourists,” says Susan Bodnarchuk, chairperson for the committee.
Capturing some of that traffic and getting visitors to stay for a while is one of the goals, says Mayor Glenn Witherspoon. He says the town needs improved infrastructure, like better signage and more parking for recreational vehicles. Also, more recreational activities and events will increase the length of stay of tourists.
Bodnarchuk says the town is in a perfect location to develop a tourism industry that can create some new economic development and employment in the area.
The committee is looking for ideas for branding the city.
“We felt if we can come up with a theme for the town, and give it a brand, so that we are recognized by people,” says Bodnarchuk.
He says the effort to spruce up the town’s image has been “spearheaded by the business people in the downtown core, so it is rewarding to see the business people leading the pack.”
The consultants have been working for the past two-months on the framework for the study and plan to conduct interviews, meetings and workshops to gather input from community stakeholders and citizens. The final report is expected to be delivered sometime in January 2003.
Witherspoon admits significant amounts of capital will be needed to develop a tourism industry in the area, “I’m not sure what the price tag is going to be, to do the things we want, it’s going to be expensive.”
Bodnarchuk says the community is looking at this study as a long-term strategy that will help guide the city to more tourism development now and for the future.