Thompson city officials and outdoor enthusiasts came together at Riverview Restaurant in the early morning March 13 to find out more about Travel Manitoba’s new snowmobile tourism strategic plan.
McLauchlan’s latest project involves aggressively marketing Thompson and surrounding communities as premier snowmobiling destinations to national and international markets.
A lot of the pieces are already in place to make this push a reality, McLauchlan says. Not only does Northern Manitoba have a natural advantage because of its longer winter, but an extensive trail system is already in place with dedicated local groups like the Thompson Trailbreakers Snowmobile Club that are willing to maintain them.
“That’s what we want to get out to the world: that we have snow, we have trails, we have destinations, we have product and we want you here,” he said. “That message is slowly getting out but we want to do this in a big way.”
The marketing strategy framework was laid out during a snowmobiling summit in Snow Lake last Nov. 15, which featured representatives from Flin Flon, The Pas, Cranberry Portage and Swan River.
Based on recommendations brought up during this summit, McLauchlan is moving into “phase two” of this project, which involves asking the Churchill Regional Economic Development Fund to help them hire a northern co-ordinator and set up committees that can carry out certain tasks.
Along with creating a new trail between Snow Lake and Cranberry Portage, these people will also be responsible for maintaining existing systems, improving signage and planning events that will boost the north’s snowmobile tourism brand.
McLauchlan said they are even going to make signing up for licences more accessible, since several Thompson residents mentioned Wednesday that it is becoming more and more difficult to renew their Snopass.
While some of these objectives could be wrapped up by the end of the year, others (like improving internet and cell phone coverage throughout snowmobiling areas in Northern Manitoba) could take until 2023 or longer to complete.
Thompson residents will have their own part to play in this ongoing marketing blitz, especially when it comes to facilitating hospitality and tourism services.
“We, as communities, have to be tourism-friendly and have to be snowmobile tourism-friendly,” he said. “So if somebody picks up the phone at Paint Lake or at one of the hotels here in town and are asked questions about snowmobiling … are our front desk people going to know where that information is, know how to direct them or give them some of that information?”
According to a 2013 report from Snoman, the snowmobiling industry contributes more than $300 million to the provincial economy each year.
To find out more about Travel Manitoba’s new strategic plan, contact McLauchlan at firstname.lastname@example.org.