Share pride of Sunset Country

? Northwestern Ontario residents already are being bombarded with TV commercials and travel information for summer vacations in Manitoba, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
The promotion focusing on staying close to home, and enjoying affordable family vacations, makes for a good argument.
In these tough economic times, the expense of a family vacation can be greatly reduced by staying close to home. Yet here in Northwestern Ontario, the province remains silent.
In its report “Discovering Ontario,” Greg Sorbara is quoted as saying “Ontario needs to be more committed and aggressive participant in the global market.”
I believe everyone is in agreement that the province should become more aggressive attracting tourists to this region. The success of the region to date has had very little to do with government spending on focal attractions such as the Ontario Art Gallery and Science North, but everything to do with the natural, unspoiled green environment.
The report has suggested the province be divided into 11 regions, with one region extending from Sault Ste. Marie all the way to the Manitoba border. Currently, that geographical area is served by two distinct associations: “Sunset Country” and “North of Superior.”
Sunset Country already is well-established as a region, offering vacations in 440 accommodations and generating more than 12,000 full-year jobs with a payroll of almost $400 million.
The brand name is now found on businesses within the region, all contributing to the recognition of Sunset Country.
Sunset Country attracts the majority of its tourists from the central U.S. Midwest (Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Illinois). It is a unique visitor base not found in any other region of Ontario.
When seeking to attract Canadians to our region (a region the size of France), the highway, air, and rail links from large Canadian cities are extremely weak. Yes, improvements by other provincial ministries would make getting to Northwestern Ontario easier.
Kenora hotel keepers already have established a successful Destination Marketing Fee (DMF) that last year provided $120,000 for marketing Kenora.
Led by Jerry Fisher, district camp owners have been working for two years to establish a DMF for Sunset Country. It has been a slow process, with sporadic success.
The recommendation from the report that where a region establishes a DMF, such a fee would become mandatory for all accommodation businesses (and the money would flow to directly marketing the industry), is very good.
As Mr. Fisher noted, the DMF could generate $2.7 million to market the region.
It would create new funds for tourist areas to market themselves with. Combined with matching funding from the federal and provincial governments, it would help put Sunset Country on a more even footing with the states and provinces it already is competing against.
Government programs and assistance alone cannot promote the region any more than creating a larger region will make tourism business better.
Our region, Ontario’s Sunset Country, is unique in the country and offers visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy unspoiled wilderness and nature. We must recognize this within ourselves and each resident of the region must share in telling the stories with pride of our history and our land.

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