Despite a cool, damp summer, the Sault’s tourism sector had “a solid year” overall, says Tourism Sault Ste. Marie.
Much of that success is due to the sports tournament and convention segment of the industry, which “was very good this year,” said Ian McMillan, executive director of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie.
“We hosted the Jehovah Witness Convention in July which was over 2,500 delegates for four days.”
“Then we hosted the National Wildlife Officers convention which was about 400 delegates for six days and for sports we had two major national and international chess championships that hosted a significant number of participants over a 10-day period. And for events we had the Queen Street Cruise event and the second year for the Can Am Presidents Cup Poker Run on the waterfront in early August.”
The agency was involved in 25 events, hosting 7,365 delegates and participants, for a total of $3.68 million in direct spending. That number is based on an average established by the industry of $150 per day by a delegate or tourist, McMillan said.
The Sault hosted tourists outside of those events as well, he pointed out.
The exchange rate and a good U.S. economy brought in more Americans, he said. “And Canada 150 helped Canadian travel.”
Not so “helpful” weather slightly reduced ridership on the tour train over the summer. “However the fall is very strong, with online package sales ahead of last year.”
The total number of tourists who visited is unavailable, “as we have no way to fully quantify that,” said McMillan.
“We depend on StatsCanada to provide those overall numbers, and we generally receive them, along with the rest of the province about two years behind.”
Numbers are available for those tourists who visited via Tourism Sault Ste. Marie’s website or on a bus tour.
“TSSM operates an online reservation system that offers a variety of packages, that bundle tourist attractions and accommodations and in some cases event tickets,” said McMillan.
“From May to September 2017 we have sold 3,220 two- and three-day packages, representing about 8,100 visitor days with a direct spend of $1.2 million.”
As for bus tours — a significant source for the Agawa Canyon Tour Train — in that same period the Sault hosted 204 groups, or over 12,000 passengers, representing about 26,000 visitor days with a direct spend of $3.9 million.
More cruise ships have begun docking here. Since June, cruise ships made 20 stops here, “bringing over 4,000 passengers, visiting local attractions during their six-hour shore excursions,” said McMillan.
McMillan’s agency is the marketing and product development branch of Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corp.
“So our main focus is packaging our attractions with accommodations and selling them with our online reservation system.
“We also focus on bidding on and hosting major sporting events and conventions.”
McMillan expects to announce a convention and sports tournament and a new event for 2018 “fairly soon.”
In the meantime, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie is accepting nominations for its 15th Annual Tourism Sault Ste. Marie Awards, including Tourism Award of Excellence, Business of the Year Award, Customer Service Award, Tourism Ambassador Award, and Hospitality Management Award.
“These awards are an opportunity to recognize those who have dedicated their time, passion, and commitment to the tourism and hospitality sector,” said McMillan.
“We receive a fair number (of nominations) for each category, but especially in the area of customer service and volunteers.”
The nomination period remains open until Oct. 11, and a panel of local business people will make the final decisions.