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Tourism in Winnipeg on the Rise

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Tourism is always hit and miss in this province. Travel Manitoba came up with a little buzzworthy four TV ads that emphasized the three things they thought were important. Those things were: Churchill, northern tours, fishing (especially with use of a guide) and Winnipeg.


These ads were set up to present Manitoba to others but they were also shown on TV within the province to present the province to itself. In other words, the biggest tourists are people in the province visiting one another. Show someone in Winnipeg what Churchill is like and they will be the number 1 source of tourists generally.

There is a limited budget each year and past efforts have been mediocre. The government realizes the importance and sets out to support key industries such as fly-in fishing and tours of Churchill. Winnipeg has always been more difficult to capture because cultural images show a world mosaic. It is hard to show the Winnipeg ID, the character of the city, who we are. The television ad shows dragon boat racing on the Red River. Don’t know how that says: Winnipeg.

Tourism Winnipeg is obviously focused more on Winnipeg which you’d expect. The City of Winnipeg tour book is as good as it gets. Top notch all the way. The request page though needed a correction. It said “chok full” rather than “chock full” and I hope it is corrected soon.

There is no doubt the city is trying to position itself a lot better with limited resources. Quite a bit of research is being done. And yet the city has suffered tourism-wise because in the grand scheme of things there has to be compelling attractions for people to want to visit the city.

The Canadian Tourism Commission turned its eyes to Manitoba and brought a hundred plus travel writers to the province for about $300,000. The first articles from that visit are starting to appear in newspapers like the Toronto Star.

Some journalists think travel writing is fluffy or dishonest. Perhaps that’s because payment is often involved from the party being reviewed.

Given the cuts to newspaper and magazine budgets, few seem willing to send their reporters off each week to far flung destinations. Yet every major metropolitan newspaper has a travel section. Very willing to accept travel ads, not willing to assign hard news reporters?


I guess the same could be said of home and auto sections of the newspapers. Lots of ads but is there any hard news reporting in there? Is all we see softball in terms of reporting?

That is a debate for another time. Let’s just say for now that travel writing is popular and if we can believe the tourism departments, it works.

In the aftermath of the tour of travel writers, we will have see if the articles that result from it see an uptick in the number of visitors.

The Journey Churchill at Winnipeg Zoo, the Human Rights Museum and swimming with belugas in Churchill are new to the province. Manitobans will visit them first in big numbers but their long term future depends on visitors from all over to survive.

Most of Winnipeg’s greatest tourism attractions are cultural. The mountains and the ocean don’t exist in a river valley. While the natural attraction Winnipeg does have can be emphasized, they don’t hold a candle to the city’s people and culture. That is hard to capture in pictures compared to Vancouver by the mountains and sea or Toronto by the lake.

Ultimately what becomes a national and international tourist attractions in Winnipeg are things the people in the city have done for themselves. The examples abound from Folklorama, the Folk
Festival, Rainbow Stage and The Forks. As good as those are, it is hard to capture iconic pictures of it to sell the masses beyond Manitoba’s borders.

The travel writers who recently visited our city now have the iconic pictures of people inside a tube watching polar bears above them. They have the distinctive Human Rights Museum that looks different from most buildings on the planet and further afield, they have pictures of people swimming with belugas.

They say a picture says a thousand words…those pictures from this past trip of travel writers are probably worth at least $300,000.

Let’s see if those pictures result in millions more being in Winnipeg and beyond.

This has been a guest editorial by John Dobbin.
To read more from John, visit his blog Observations, Reservations, Conversations

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