During their Sept. 19 meeting the Thompson Chamber of Commerce hosted two out-of-town representatives from Travel Manitoba, who said that the Hub of the North has an important part to play in increasing regional tourism.
Both Alan McLauchlan and Lillian Tankard have been helping to develop tourism strategies for a while now, including the province's Northern Manitoba Tourism Strategy, and took some time on Wednesday to outline how Thompson business owners fit into their ongoing plans.
In the short term, McLauchlan said they’ve identified attractions such as Paint Lake Provincial Park and the Boreal Discovery Centre as having a lot of potential to rake in tourism dollars and will be repeating those same ideas to the appropriate tour operators in the not-so-distant future.
When it comes to large-scale infrastructure projects, McLauchlan mentioned that they also need to push for upgrades to nearby roads like Highway 391 from Thompson to Nelson House, Leaf Rapids and Lynn Lake.
While McLauchlan is currently spearheading a number of marketing strategies to compliment these initiatives, including a new website and Facebook page called “Manitoba North,” he feels business owners in Thompson need to do a better job of highlighting the city’s qualities as a tourist hot spot.
“We have a great opportunity now that the train is coming back, so what the chamber needs to do is they need to really think tourism,” he said. “In every business that you do [think], ‘How could a tourist benefit from this business?’ And you also, as a chamber member, need to mentor people that are starting out with new experiences.”
Part of this mentorship process involves going into schools and reminding youth that starting a tourism-centred business is a financially viable option in Northern Manitoba.
“You can make a living at tourism,” said Tankard. “It’s no longer the fluff. It really is part of the GDP and we’ve gotten the provincial government to believe that it actually adds dollars to their tax revenue.”
According to the province’s website, the Manitoba tourism industry currently supports 20,640 jobs and contributes $ 625.1 million in annual tax revenue to the economy.
Throughout their research, Tankard said they’ve also determined that Indigenous attractions are a large draw for residents of southern Manitoba and beyond, which is why members of these communities need to be included in this conversation.
Tankard said they’ve identified around 57 Indigenous tourism operators that are at varying stages of market-readiness throughout the province, and are always on the lookout for ways to increase their visibility province-wide.
“We have a wonderful northern product and we need to tell more people about it,” she said.
Moving forward, McLauchlan said that these recommendations will brought to the right people, especially when Travel Manitoba hosts an international Indigenous tourism conference in Winnipeg in 2020.
“It’s a really big opportunity for us,” he said. “For years people said that nobody is looking at us. Well guess what, everybody’s looking at us now, so we really need to grab that and we need to run with it.”
To find out more about Travel Manitoba’s ongoing marketing campaign, contact McLauchlan at firstname.lastname@example.org.