Monday, July 28, 2014

Tourist centre open again

The Ontario Travel Information Centre building here has an open sign in the window once again.
After the provincial service was shuttered two years ago, the Town of Fort Frances was able to secure a rental agreement with the government and on Monday the facility, through assistance from the Rainy River Future Development Corp., was re-opened.

“As of 10 a.m. [Monday] morning, we got the keys and at about 10:10 a.m., we were occupying the building, cleaning it, and putting up brochures,” noted Tannis Drysdale of the RRFDC.
“We’ll probably spend the next couple of days organizing a little bit but we have opened the doors to tourists,” she added.
“And we have information available for them, washrooms available for them, and maps of Northwestern Ontario.”
Drysdale noted for the past few summers, students have been under tents at the bridge handing out brochures and trying to promote the town.
Now they will be indoors—in a proper tourist information centre.
“The plan is at this point that we will try to maintain tourist information services into the fall, close down for the winter, do some renovations in terms of displays, and open again in the spring with a fully-remodelled building,” she explained.
Drysdale said the RRFDC has an application in to acquire new banner signage at the border in order to let tourists know the centre is open again.
“We have new signs going up on the building and there will be directional signs, as well,” she remarked, though adding she doesn’t think it will be difficult to spread the word.
“[Monday] we were open for just a few minutes and tourists found us, so I think it’s going to be a positive place for us to promote our community,” she enthused.
There will be several employees manning the tourist information centre.
“We have three students [and] we have one intern,” said Drysdale, indicating a second intern position is available whose primary duty will be to take care of the tourist information centre.
The provincial government announced back in March, 2012 that the OTIC here was one of seven being closed, along with Rainy River, Kenora, Fort Erie, Hill Island, Prescott, and Cornwall.
According to the Ministry of Tourism’s website, the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corp. was “realigning its tourism services by focusing on online travel marketing activities to meet consumers’ travel research preferences through major redevelopment of its tourism information website, call centre, and brochure distribution service.”
But the town continued to investigate acquiring and re-opening the OTIC here while students, in the meantime, stood outdoors handing out maps at the border.
“We, as a municipality, feel that we should have some type of tourist information centre in this area, for greeting people when they come in or for people who want to stop and get information on Fort Frances,” Mayor Roy Avis had stressed.
It wasn’t a quick process but two years later, the town got word the province was open to leasing.
Then the final details of the lease arrangement had to be sorted out, with the town having to adjust its insurance in slight ways to the province’s liking.
“But finally we’re in,” said Drysdale, adding there’s already a phone line and Internet service installed at the building, along with computers and other equipment.
And the town already has been tending to the upkeep of the property, such as mowing the grass.
“We will use the facility to create economic opportunity in the community,” Drysdale added.
The centre will be open seven days a week, beginning at 9 a.m., with extended hours on Thursdays and Fridays when more tourists are heading into the area.

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