THUNDER BAY – Summer is a time of travel for many in Thunder Bay, a chance to venture out to explore the world after being cooped up for much of the winter.
In a COVID-19 reality, that’s not happening in 2020, at least not in the traditional sense.
While restrictions may be lifted as summer progresses, the expectation is the vast majority of people will probably stick closer to home.
Paul Pepe, manager of tourism for the City of Thunder Bay, hopes to take advantage of this, encouraging locals to take stay-cations and get to know their own backyard a little better, while supporting local businesses and tourism attractions at the same time.
To add a little incentive to the mix, Pepe on Monday announced a $19,000 photo contest, with weekly prizes of about $1,250, encouraging locals to take pictures of their homegrown experience and post to social media, tagging the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission and Tourism Thunder Bay.
Participants are also asked to use the hashtag #Tbaycation.
There’s never been a more important time to support local businesses and attractions.
“We’ve seen the travel industry come to a grinding halt all over the world. All of the data tells us that people aren’t going to be traveling far this summer. They are going to be staying close to home,” Pepe said.
“Local residents are the most important foundation to helping our tourism economy recover. It’s about getting those dollars circulating in our community and what better place to start than with local residents to support our own.”
Prizes include hotel stays, guided tours, outfitting and guide services, restaurant and retail gift certificates. A full list of the prizes can be found at www.thunderbay.ca/tbaycation.
It’s going to be a tough year for tourism operators and local businesses that rely on an influx of visitor dollars, Pepe said.
“It’s going to be up to locals to help our local tourism economy to recover. This is a great opportunity to get people to get out of their houses –everybody’s got cabin fever – and get out and explore things in our backyard that perhaps they’ve not thought about visiting in a long time or they just take it for granted,” Pepe said.
“This is a chance to build some community pride and get people excited about what we have here in the city.”
Pepe added it doesn’t have to be limited to the city proper. Any area tourism-related experience qualifies.