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Keep thinking outside the box, bring in more tourists

 by Twyla Siple, Interlake Spectator

Interlake Tourism Association hosted its 2018 annual general meeting March 22 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Winnipeg Beach. Pictured: Guest speaker, Colin Ferguson, CEO of Travel Manitoba, stands with Interlake Tourism Manager Gail McDonald.

Interlake Tourism Association hosted its 2018 annual general meeting March 22 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Winnipeg Beach. Pictured: Guest speaker, Colin Ferguson, CEO of Travel Manitoba, stands with Interlake Tourism Manager Gail McDonald.

Interlake Tourism Association Manager Gail McDonald had some important tips for her comrades at the annual general meeting for ITA, March 22.
 
“Keep thinking outside the box,” she said. “As ITA members, you are an integral part of a large regional picture, your role in providing superior products and services is the tie to moving the Interlake forward.”
 
Place Branding
Travel Manitoba CEO Colin Ferguson began the evening by foreshadowing McDonald’s statement as he outlined what successful Manitoban communities are doing to bring in more tourists. 
 
“We just received word that Travel Manitoba’s budget will stay the same this year - because they know we are generating revenue for them,” Ferguson said. 
He explained that Travel Manitoba is focusing their efforts on generating markets in the US and Canada - primarily the Winnipeg markets - which he says is the first step that will then bring people further into Manitoba, into the Interlake.
 
Ferguson went over TM’s plan to market with print companies such as Macleans and National Geographic to advertise Manitoba on a world wide scale.
“We’ve changed people’s perception of Manitoba, and it has changed Manitoban’s perception of themselves,” he said.
 
According to Ferguson, the province benefitted from the tourism industry to the tune of $277 million dollars last year. He said that in December alone, Manitoba received 16.7% of its revenue from over the border tourism, which he says brings in about $16 million for every $100 million spent, and that goes right back into the travel industry.
 
“At this time the forecast for the 2017 tourism revenue, which is pretty much an educated guess at this point - suggests a 5.4% increase invested in international tourism spending in Manitoba in 2017 - and that projection will total tourism expenditures to about $1.6 billion returning an estimated $292 million back to the province by way of tax payer dollars.”
 
Ferguson outlined what successful destinations such as Gimli are doing with their place branding. “Here in the Interlake we created a place brand of Gimli.” The position of Gimli is ‘The Heart of New Iceland’ which he says is working to generate new interest from international markets with special events such as RAW Gimli. 
 
Ferguson explained that provincial communities have to work together and share ideas to bring in more tourism and increase revenue using new concepts like place branding and digital media. He said that Travel Manitoba will help with their in house place branding strategies. 
 
In order to have a place brand, communities need to be able to have $10,000 to contribute for photo and video content. Their contribution will be used to hire videographers and photographers to create content to showcase their community to the rest of the world. Travel Manitoba will work with them and their ideas to help them develop their own image.
 
“It depends on what it is that you want to accomplish - for Travel Manitoba these place brands are costing us about $25,000 to produce, so that’s our gift back to your community.”
 
AGM highlights
McDonald and president of ITA, Heather Hinam, briefly outlined the agenda item, with questions and answers at the end of their presentation. 
 
McDonald focused her discussions mainly on needing more members for the association, the building partnerships and strengthening relationships, noting that the West Interlake area has established a regional group brand to market itself as a corridor destination to the north. 
 
She said last year ITA grew by one new member, Fisher River Cree Nation, and are proud to have the thriving indigenous population as their newest associate community.
 
Dirty T-Shirt Productions is a videography/photography company hired by ITA to create content for ITA’s new website. If any business or community is interested in buying into the program, it will cost about $600 for a 30 second clip. 
 
“It’s yours, you own it, and ITA also gets to use it on our website to promote you,” said McDonald.
 
ITA has also established a new grant, the Interlake Tourist Development Grant.
 
“It’s kind of our way of replacing the now defunct Manitoba Rural Development Tourism Grant,” said Hinam of the $500-$2,500 grant that can be used for any new community based project that is not already in motion. 
 
The application deadline is April 15 at 4 p.m.  and projects must be completed by Dec. 1. The application fee is $200 for non-members and none for members. Funds will be awarded by May 15, once approved, and the money must be spent by December.


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