The City of Greater Sudbury's long history in mining is starting to have an effect on travel numbers, according to the city's development corporation.
Over the past year more delegates have been coming to the city to not just meet and speak with companies and executives, but look at how the region has tackled mining as a whole, from prospecting and technology, to remediation and knowledge gathering.
“The numbers are increasing because Sudbury has a global reputation for being a mining innovation centre,” said Scott Rennie, project manager for Northern Ontario exports, Greater Sudbury Development Corporation in an interview.
It's not unusual for groups and delegates to arrange meetings with companies, but the number that are interested in seeing the city as a whole is increasing.
Because of that, the city, colleges, universities, other institutions and private companies are collaborating to offer a broader perspective to delegations.
In 2018, the development corporation hosted delegates from France, Chile, Russia and the Czech Republic.
There are many ways these groups make their way to the region. Some are due to the development corporation reaching out, some are through partnerships with entities like Global Affairs Canada, Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, Export Development Canada and other trade organizations. Others may be initiated by another institution like Laurentian University or NORCAT and they may play a role in those delegations.
He did confirm these sorts of delegations are increasing. He attributed it to the upswing in mining on a global scale and the city's mining reputation preceding it.
Sometimes the reason for the visit isn't obvious, or just about mining. Environmental processes are also gaining worldwide attention.
“We had a Peruvian delegation about four years ago that wanted to learn about our reclamation process,” he said.
There was another group brought in by Laurentian University to learn about our electronic tagging system for managing prospecting claims.
All that combined shows that the city isn't just a mining town, it's a hub for innovation and experimentation, as well as a thriving community.
These international delegations are a very organized subset of a larger effort to bring more travellers to the city. Rennie explained it speaks more to the global reach Sudbury is fortunate to have.
How the city, universities and companies are collaborating to bring delegates and attract more business travel is also garnering attention. Rennie explained other cities are using Sudbury's methods as a template to develop their own strategies. He presented how the city has to the Economic Development Association of Ontario at a conference in Toronto at the end of January how Sudbury as a small city has managed these delegations to meet their needs.
And the momentum is continuing well into 2019. Rennie said a delegation from Greenland and Denmark will be coming before March then a Finnish delegation in the spring. Laurentian is preparing to host an environmental conference in June, in which the development corporation is planning on organizing touring events.
Dana Jennings, acting manager of Tourism and Culture, said statistics gathered for 2018 from Statistics Canada show travellers spent $192 million in the Sudbury region alone. The total number of visitors were 1,253,060, with 120,987 reporting they were in the city for business purposes.
“All of those visitors are contributing to our economy, filling hotels, spending money on meals and other things. Corporate travel is essential,” she said.
For accommodation as a whole, 265,909 were in hotels. The average number of nights for a hotel stay was two.
The numbers also show that out of those total visitors, 407,582 reported they stayed with friends and relatives.
The average amount spent by a business traveller was also about $154.
Much of this made sense, Jennings said.
“When coming to a place for a visit, a traveller tends to try to save some money and at the same time get some family time in by staying with relatives and friends,” she said. “As well, if they were here for business and in a long meeting, or conference and eating in, their expenses would be different.”
As well, statistics showed the most popular leisure activities reported by travellers. The top was hiking, 166,231 visiting art galleries and museums, 37,514.
Those numbers need some interpretation, Jennings said.
“Science North and Dynamic Earth are very popular, which would be classified in those stats as museums or galleries,” she said. “And hiking. The city has numerous trails, and for someone in the south, their interpretation of hiking may be different than us.”
She added hiking being the majority reported leisure activity didn't surprise her, considering the amount of wilderness and parks in and around the city.
Jennings explained statistics are not 100 per cent accurate, but a good snapshot of trends and travel habits. They are still trending toward an upswing in travel to the city and a related uptick in business travel.
With the coming arena and event centre on the Kingsway, she said that has great potential to increase corporate travel even more. The city will have a larger venue to attract major events, making it a major destination in the north.