By ANDREW WAREING
Being located in the heart of Northern Ontario is proving to be one of the main selling points luring people to the city.
North Bay tourism development officer Tim Bertrand says ecotourism is proving to be one of the fastest growth
areas in the city’s tourism strategy.
“We really do not need to invest in bricks and mortar. Ecotourism is providing the best opportunities for us at this time,” Bertrand says.
More people than expected are visiting North Bay, says Blue Sky Region executive director Laurie Ypya.
“Between SARS, West Nile and issues between Canada and the U.S. and our involvement in the Iraq war, they have combined to reduce our numbers,” she says.
Ypya says visits to the area are only about eight per cent below what has been expected.
It is a question of what North Bay has to offer, says Bertrand.
“The city doesn’t have a lot of indoor attractions like Sudbury does with things like Science North and Dynamic Earth,” he concedes. “Yes, the Capital Centre brings in some good acts. We also have our museums and galleries.
Culturally, we have some good stuff here. But we don’t have much in the way of destination attractions. More of our opportunities are with nature.”
Programming around flower walks, bird watching and waterfront attractions are where a lot of marketing efforts are currently directed. Ypya says the city is also proving adept at providing services to the snowmobiling traffic that comes through the city.
Bertrand says the city is receiving $70,000 from the province’s tourism recovery program that the city will have to match. In addition, North Bay is also part of the Ontario North campaign, a marketing campaign that brings together marketing efforts of all the communities of the North.
Ypya says her agency has several applications for funding, but was unable to elaborate since approvals have not been received yet.
Bertrand says little has been done in the past to quantify the city’s tourism industry, in part because there has been little opportunity. However, some work is underway to try and understand just how important the industry is and what kind of impact issues like this year’s troubles have been.
“As bad as the things that happened are, one thing it did do was wake people up in government and the public in general to realize, ‘hey, tourism is kind of important,’” he says.