Cruise ships to be ‘darn good’ for Thunder Bay economy

By Sandi Krasowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Chronicle-Journal

Thunder Bay, Ont. — Things were bustling at the Pool Six cruise ship dock Thursday as Thunder Bay workers prepared for the arrival of the Viking Octantus, which is the first of 15 cruise ships to visit the city this summer. 

The ship arrived in the evening to a crowd of onlookers. It was accompanied by a water cannon salute by Teclutsa tug as it sailed into the harbour.

Paul Pepe, manager of Tourism Thunder Bay, says guests will be disembarking early this morning. 

“They will be flying home or staying a day or two in the city,” Pepe said. “And then the new guests are coming in with some of them which started flying in on Wednesday. We’re meeting arriving guests that are out exploring downtown Thursday and more guests will be flying in (this) morning and embarking (this) afternoon.”

The vessel will stay alongside the dock all day on Saturday when the guests will be exploring the city. Some are expected to visit the Terry Fox Lookout, Fort William Historical Park and Kakabeka Falls. Pepe says each disembarking guest from the ship will receive a welcome bag filled with visitor magazines, city maps, stickers and a little bag of amethyst with a little story behind it as Ontario’s gemstone. The amethyst was provided by Amethyst Mine Panorama. A visitor information tent is also set up at the dock with a permanent structure currently being built.

“This year we’re anticipating an economic impact of about $2.7 million, which is an estimate based on volumes and values a little less than last year,” he said.

“Last year, we had a lot of turnarounds. Even though we have a few more visits and more passengers, we have more day stops this year, but still, $2.7 million for 15 days is pretty darn good in the economy.”

The revenue supports upwards of 40 full-time jobs in the community across a number of companies. Added to that value for the community, Pepe says there’s the media value as well. 

“All of these ships have travel media on them and it’s part of their marketing strategies,” he said. “Content and media are part of our marketing strategy. The media coming off the ships are being sponsored by us to stay a couple of days in Thunder Bay and explore the city and create content for us and for them. At the end of the cruise they’re raising awareness of Great Lakes cruising, and that benefits all of us around the lake.”

In fact, the earned media value last year was about $6.7 million (Canadian) for the seaway in the entire Great Lakes region.

 “We’re part of that so we benefit from that global media exposure,” Pepe said. 

“And that’s over and above the individual marketing budgets these cruises have to market. The guest visits and the direct spending in the economy locally is one big thing, but the bigger picture is the brand alignment for Thunder Bay to be recognized alongside these big names, and reach out to their clients globally as well. For us to be involved in that in some way as a port of call has value.”

Pepe added that it’s all about raising the awareness of Thunder Bay to visitors at a global level.