Why do we not sell to ourselves?

“My favorite Minnesota” launched this year, and the television stations beaming into Ontario and Manitoba have been inundated with every ad from that wonderful state’s tourism bureau.
In August, whether you were tuned to CBC at ten at night or one of the two Minneapolis channels carried by cable, or Duluth stations carried by antenna, you learned from Minnesotans what their favorite destinations in that state were. You couldn’t flip through the channels with your remote without stumbling on one of those ads. (Their web site is also easy to navigate.)
Minnesota’s target is their state and those states and provinces immediately surrounding it. Ontario went out and hired Tomi Swick, a JUNO Award-winning performer from Hamilton, to be the spokesperson encouraging travel in Ontario. It was never promoted across the province.
That’s fine if you wanted to vacation in the southern area of the province, but his convincing arguments never reached into northern Ontario.
I guess the province just sees that area of the province running north of Parry Sound from the Quebec border to the Manitoba border as devoid of vacationing people. Nothing has happened to encourage vacationing in our own area of the province.
Ontario’s other spokesman, “Babe Winkleman”, hails from Brainerd, Min. His focus was to encourage fishermen to come north; to sell Ontario fishing and hunting to those people through the Midwest.
I watched “Babe” rub his beard and wink at the camera, and clicked on commercials where I was told by the “Babe” that I could win a vacation at Camp Narrows Lodge on Rainy Lake. The contest ended on April 8, 2008 and was only open to residents of Illinois yet continues to be on the web.
The background music was our Canadian national anthem. When I clicked on driving times to reach Ontario, Fort Frances did not even appear
I began looking around the web to find out how our competitors in tourism are doing. Both North Dakota and Wisconsin see Canada as a good target to draw vacationers from. They haven’t been shy on spending money to persuade us to travel south. And they also target the same groups that we wish to bring north.
It must be working. North Dakota has seen a 16 percent growth in lodging and a four percent growth in national park attendance. The numbers are not in for Minnesota yet. However, the statistics on border crossings at the Fort now indicate that two or more night stays have declined for the first time in years.
The province will be holding hearings on the “Tourism Competitive Study” in Kenora in October. Instead, maybe the Ministry of Tourism should be evaluated on the success of their marketing and promotion of the province both internally and externally. And shouldn’t they be working harder to promote tourism in Northern Ontario?

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