Tourism centre too valuable to lose

The announcement that the province was closing the tourism information centres in Fort Frances, Rainy River, and Kenora caught everyone by surprise.
In the past 12 months, the province had expanded its budget to promote fishing and hunting in the northwest. The money was targeted at major markets throughout the upper U.S. Midwest.
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. visitors annually drive across the international bridge at Fort Frances to begin their vacations in Northwestern Ontario. They are coming through the point-of-entry here to enjoy fishing and hunting at resorts, lodges, and parks from the border to Kenora, Red Lake, Pickle Lake, Atikokan, Dryden, Sioux Lookout, and all points in-between.
The Ontario tourism information centre at Fort Frances is a valued resource for every community in the region.
One Ontario tourism information site will remain open—the Pigeon River crossing south of Thunder Bay—which only operates during the summer months. One has to wonder if the closing of the three information centres in NDP MPP Sarah Campbell’s riding was a more of a political decision than a business one.
The first tourist information site here began through the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce and operated during the summer months only from a building located at Church Street and Portage Avenue.
The operation was taken over by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, which continued to operate the office during the summer. The province was given ownership of the building.
In the mid-1970s, the province placed a permanent ministry person in the building to work with lodges and outfitters throughout the region. The building, which originally was designed for summer use, soon was found wanting and through consultation, the province acquired the property at the corner of Church and Central Avenue and constructed the present Ontario Tourist Information building.
The knowledgeable staff there have been able to direct visitors to destinations not only in our region, but across Ontario. Maps, “Ontario Getaway” magazines, locally-produced literature, and directions have been freely provided, making the experience of being in Ontario easier “to discover.”
It was a unique design that has been copied throughout the province with its bright green roof. The common design was chosen so visitors easily could identify where they could get travel, accommodation, and attraction information.
Since the province is vacating the building, perhaps they should turn it over to either the towns of Northwestern Ontario, the local Chamber of Commerce, or the Sunset Country Travel Association for the same miniscule amount of money that it acquired the first tourist information building.
Although the building is less prominent today with the re-designed Canada Customs area, the site remains valuable. If the Northwest region believes that the Ontario Tourist Information Centre at Fort Frances is valuable, then the region should be willing to share the costs of keeping it open.
Sunset Country should be playing a lead role to keep it open. The North Western Ontario Tourism Association, the Kenora District Campowners Association, and the Patricia Tourism Association also all have a stake in maintaining this information site.
Tourism is too valuable for the region to just let the office and the services it provides disappear.

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