BY SCOTT HUNTER HADDOW
The City of Sault Ste. Marie has embarked on an aggressive campaign to establish itself as an internationally recognized tourist destination.
By establishing world-class tourism products and events, the city is hoping more visitors will come to the Sault throughout the four seasons and stay longer.
In the upcoming year, the city will host three major events that will expose Sault Ste. Marie to national and international television markets.
In April, the city will host the Air Canada Cup.
“The games will be broadcast live on The Sports Network (TSN) and the exposure will be incredible,” says Ian McMillan, director of tourism for the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corp.
In June, the city will host the Ontario Open for the Canadian Professional Golf Association.
“Four live rounds will be broadcast on the Golf Channel, which has 50 million viewers in the Untied States.”
For seven days in July, the city will host the 2003 Eco-Challenge Race.
“(The Eco-Challenge Race) is the grandfather of all outdoor races and it will be broadcast on the Outdoor Life Network.”
McMillan sees the three events as major benefits to the local accommodations sector and a boon for the city itself.
“With those events being broadcast on significant networks it brings large-scale attention to Sault Ste. Marie and gives us a platform to highlight some of the tourist amenities we have in the city.”
The exposure is also a financial benefit.
“We get that kind of attention, which we would have never being able to afford if we purchased advertising space on those networks,” says McMillan. “These incredible announcements fulfill our mandate to become a sports tourism destination.”
To bring even more people to the city, the EDC developed a new package initiative with Mackinaw City, Mich. called International Planes, Trains and Boat Tours, says McMillan
The tour is a five-day event, which starts with a ferryboat ride out of Mackinaw City, up through Lake Huron and into Sault Ste. Marie. Tourists then spend a couple of nights in the city taking in local attractions and then board a motor coach back into Michigan to experience some of the attractions in Michigan before arriving back in Mackinaw City.
“This is a unique way to bring people over the border and into our city.”
There are seven trips organized for the summer and McMillan anticipates about 100 people per trip.
One of Sault Ste. Marie’s backbone tourist attractions is proposing a unique project to the various levels of government.
The Canadian Bushplane Museum is in the development stages of proposing an object theatre.
The theatre would have three different types of media for presentations. There would be a full-size airplane hanging from the ceiling with a pilot talking about his experiences in bush flying. As the pilot talks about different people or aircraft, pictures or models would be highlighted throughout the theatre. At the front, there would be a display screen for 3-D presentations. The project partners are proposing ideas such as moving seats, spraying water - if a water bomber is displayed in action - and feeling the heat from a forest fire and smelling the smoke.
“This would definitely attract wider interest to the museum,” says Don Johnson, general manager of the museum.
The museum and Science North in Greater Sudbury prepared the proposal. The project would likely cost about $3 million and result in a twin theatre developed in Science North. Johnson is still seeking other partners.
The museum also spent about $300,000 in display upgrades, including toolbox information centres, children’s adventure in-flight display and a Beaver Flight Adventure. The flight adventure simulates flying in three different scenarios. One flight goes around the city, another travels up Anwar Canyon and the third is experiencing a CL-450 Water Bomber mission.
Johnson expects the investment will pay off for the museum.
“Indications are we will see about a 12 to 15 per cent increase in visitations this year.”