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U.S. spring break

It was spring break in Thunder Bay and we had a problem - where to go and what to do. I don’t really have a Punta Cana disposition so I vetoed the South Seas right away.
It was spring break in Thunder Bay and we had a problem - where to go and what to do.

I don’t really have a Punta Cana disposition so I vetoed the South Seas right away. Besides, with all the good weather lately I don’t know why you would want to leave the area at all.
Still, like many other Canadians, we had a touch of the wanderlust and we felt like going somewhere. Being on the water sounded pretty good too.

And so in the end just like all those other Canadians, especially the ones around here, we satisfied both urges by going south. Two days in Duluth was just the ticket.

It wasn’t Superior by Nature but it was still Superior.

I have lived in these parts for most of my young (in my opinion) life and as long as I can remember city residents have been travelling to the United States.

At the same time local business owners and civic leaders have been trying to figure out how to reverse that flow of dollars. How, my friends, can we turn Thunder Bay into a tourist destination for our rich American friends? Is it even possible?

This was the topic of conversation when we sat down to a delicious, fattening dinner in a busy Duluth restaurant filled, we were told, with hungry Canadians. It felt just like home. We saw lots of people we knew from restaurants in Thunder Bay.

As soon as we were seated we were offered a complimentary glass of wine. At first we declined but eventually we were cajoled into at least trying a sip, which we did. It was good, a little sweet, but here is a good clue about how to attract prospective American (and Canadian) tourists.

Good service is very important, it’s true, but never underestimate the power and attraction of cheap booze when it comes to tourism. This was confirmed by a conversation we had with our waiter.

Things were a little awkward at first when it slipped out we had been to Cuba but once he discovered we were just left-leaning, liberal Canadians and not terrorists, he got a whole lot friendlier.

He even pointed out a big, burly bus-boy who happened to be a Canadian as well. It’s nice they will hire misguided foreigners at their restaurant.

Our new friend told us about his favourite holiday and how he liked to celebrate. Apparently at New Year’s, Duluth bars stay open for 48 hours straight.

According to that party dude you can drink all night, show up hammered for breakfast and then continue drinking for another entire day. Can Thunder Bay compete with that? More importantly, should we even try?

"Hmm," I thought to myself, "I don’t think this guy is going to drive to Thunder Bay to tour the waterfront."

The fact is he will probably never visit Thunder Bay or any other Canadian destination because he doesn’t have a passport and doesn’t plan to get one. It will be hard to get this guy to vacation up north.

I am not trying to suggest cheap booze is the only way to attract tourism. It occurred to me as I finished off my short ribs braised in a Chianti reduction with portabella mushroom risotto and seasonal vegetables, good cheap food is helpful too.

You don’t have to attend many all-you-can-eat buffets to see just like us our American friends like to tie on the feed bag. That’s why North Americans are fat and out of shape.

However, when it comes to bringing in tourist dollars all that lard is money in the bank.
Some might say it’s not a good idea to promote overdrinking and overeating to people who already drink and eat too much, even if it will bring in tourist dollars.

How far are we prepared to go to make our city a tourist destination?

This might be a case of be careful what you wish for.

Is Thunder Bay a tourist destination? No. Will it become one soon? Not likely. Will Thunder Bay ever become a tourist destination? Maybe, maybe not.

But who cares anyway? This city is still a great place to live and for many people who call it home, it’s a wonderful life.

And if we really need to get away for a while we can always go to Duluth.

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