Sunset Country Travel Association’s marketing initiatives brings in visitors
Sunset Country marketing draws visitors to NWO.
The economic impact of tourism in Northwest Ontario is wide-reaching.
In 2014 — the latest year statistics are available — 2,054,600 people visited Northwestern Ontario — 934,000 of them visited between July and September, according to Statistics Canada data prepared by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
Of those 2,054,600 visitors, 465,900 indicated fishing as their reason for visiting, and 406,900 indicated boating — the two highest numbers for any single outdoor activity — 233,100 of those who indicated fishing as their reason for visiting were Americans.
Many fishing lodges charge American clients in USD — bringing in more money to the region when the CAD is down.
According to the same statistics, those 2,054,600 visitors spent $481,276,000 in 2014 — with $246,181,000 spent between July and September in 2014.
Considering many of the fishing lodges and hunting outfitters are owned by Northwestern Ontarians, much of that money stays in the region, at least according to Gerry Cariou, executive director of the Sunset Country Travel Association.
“The impact of the fish hunt component of tourism is extreme,” said Cariou. “It’s like a lumber mill — it brings in outside dollars, but the difference is, in the mills, the money is often exported to head offices in Toronto — here the money is mostly retained.”
Even considering some fishing lodges are owned by Americans, the trickle down effect keeps money in the region, according to Cariou.
“Even American lodge owners have to buy their bait here, their fuel here, everything,” said Cariou.
Looking at the numbers, the Sunset Country Travel Association plays a role in bringing in that outside money.
Last year, the SCTA spent in excess of $400,000 on mar- keting — from blogging and Facebook boosting to traditional paid advertising, Cariou related.
The SCTA’s money is largely drawn from fees paid by members and advertising — cities, municipalities, fishing lodges, outfitters — and the SCTA uses it’s wide-reaching social media presence — nearly 200,000 likes on Facebook alone, between a variety of pages — it’s bought-andpaid-for advertising and it’s mail and email lists to connect tourists to fishing lodges and other outfitters.
“The numbers of inquiries for trips we get is exceptional,” said Cariou. “Since the first of this year, we’ve had, just internet-based inquiries, 2,597 inquiries.”
Cariou estimates. in addition to internet inquiries, the SCTA gets another 40 per cent of that volume of inquiries over the phone,
Those are all people inquiring about trips to Northwestern Ontario — trips in which they’ll spend money at area stores, area food suppliers and area outfitters.
“We’re a non-profit, grass roots organization run by people who live here. Our board of directors is drawn from the members — the industry that contributes,” said Cariou. “What do we do for the LOTW region? This is what we do,” said Cariou.
Sunset Country Travel Association executiver director Gerry Cariou discusses the association's social media marketing strategy including a dedicated website developed at a cost of $110,000. The SCTA has seen a 70 per cent increase in visits as a result of search engine optimization.