Tourism Manager Paul Pepe Reflects on 2023 – Looking Ahead to 2024

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By Paul Pepe

THUNDER BAY – Business – As the sun sets on the final day of 2023 and we finally have some normal winter weather, I find myself, like many, reflecting on the past year. Let’s cap off the year to celebrate just some of our major Tourism Thunder Bay accomplishments.

We had our busiest cruise shipping season ever. Fourteen vessel visits from four ships representing three cruise lines visited the city’s revitalized Pool 6 Cruise Terminal.

We won the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce “Game Changer” award for the Cruise Port Thunder Bay Collaboration along with the City of Thunder Bay and Embark Port Services.

We welcomed 24 travel media visits, generating over 60 specific content pieces including articles, YouTube episodes and other social media channel content.

Cruise and Ferry Magazine listed Thunder Bay as one of five global cruise ports on the rise in their fall 2023 edition!

Editor’s Note – This video from 15 years ago…

We engaged over 540 media, travel trade buyers, sport organizations, convention planners and film and TV site selectors to encourage them to bring their groups and events to Thunder Bay.

Our Tourism Development Fund granted over $730 000 to 37 tourism development and events in the city, leveraging an additional $2.3 million from other sources. Supported events generated over $12 million in economic impact.

On the sport tourism front, we provided support to events including the Canadian Disc Golf Championships, the Women’s World U21 Baseball Qualifiers and the successful 2025 Scotties Tournament of Hearts bid.

We partnered with other Northern Ontario cities and Destination Northern Ontario on the meeting and convention attraction front at the Canadian Meeting and Event Expo, with a bigger presence to reach more planners.

Our Check in Canada online accommodation booking engine influenced over $500 000 in commission free bookings to our local hotel partners.

We leveraged over $890 000 in marketing partnership dollars across a number of regional, provincial and national marketing programs and campaigns.

Over 700 000 visitors to visitthunderbay.com found their travel inspiration.

We launched our first LGBTQ2S+ tourism strategy in partnership with Superior Country.

Our historic Terry Fox and Pagoda Visitor Centres welcomed tens of thousands of visitors through the doors signaling a return to a normal travel year.

On the industry front, hotel occupancy recovered to pre pandemic levels. New additions to our hotel landscape included the Superior Shores by Best Western and the soon to open Home 2 Suites by Hilton. Ground broke on a new Hyatt House as well.

We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our industry partners, CEDC administrative and board leadership and our Tourism Investment committee members.

In 2024 we turn our attention from recovery to growth and we have amazing opportunities and a few issues to tackle to achieve that. Right now, let’s finish off 2023 with a raised glass to a year worth celebrating for many reasons.

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