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The new tourism project highlights the natural beauty of the north

The first workshop on nature-based tourism is taking place at the Red Rock Interpretive Center on June 16.
Red Rock Interpretive Centre (1)
The nature-based tourism workshop is taking place at the Red Rock Interpretive Center on June 16.

THUNDER BAY - Ontario Nature is launching a new project in northwestern Ontario to promote and support tourism operators that provide high-quality nature experiences for their clients.  Over the next year, Ontario Nature will be partnering with tourism operators and organizations to deliver experiential tours, hikes and other excursions. The project will connect nature lovers with unique natural settings found in and around Thunder Bay, focusing on attracting more tourists from within Ontario.

COVID-19 hit Ontario’s economy hard over the last few years, leaving many economic sectors struggling to recoup. One such sector was Ontario’s tourism which was hit hard by the travel restrictions and border closures. However, due to these restrictions, there was a surge of local travellers looking to embrace the natural beauty by planning excursions in and around the province. Now that the border allows travel back in from the United States, Ontario’s tourism sector is shifting focus on building up new ideas for the future of tourism.  

According to Destination Northern Ontario, northern Ontario attracts more than 9 million visitors annually. The expansion of nature and adventure tourism has been identified as a primary focus niche by Destination Northern Ontario Product Development Strategy and Marketing Strategy for 2017–2020 reports. These strategies identify opportunities related to nature and adventure, notable or signature landscapes, waterways, and wildlife viewing in northern Ontario as high-priority tourism products.

“Ontario Nature is in a great position to help promote the beautiful landscapes, scenic towns and knowledgeable guides that we have in northwestern Ontario,” says Jake Guggenheimer, Nature-based Tourism Project Coordinator based in Thunder Bay. “We have a large network of members from across Ontario who are passionate naturalists. One of our goals for this project is to encourage travel within the province and get people outside to explore northern Ontario”.   

The project will also provide free training workshops to tourism operators and organizations to increase their capacity to deliver nature-based, conservation-focused tourism with a light environmental footprint. Workshops will be offered from May to September and cover boreal birds, plants, geology and other natural heritage topics.

"Superior Country looks forward to working with Ontario Nature to support businesses and communities in the region to increase their tourism products,” said Suzanne Kukko, the Lake Superior North Shore Tourism coordinator of Superior Country. “We are always looking for additional offers to encourage visitors to stay and play longer, and nature-based tourism is a huge piece of that. Ontario Nature will help operators build capacity to develop and deliver that product while increasing awareness and promotion of conservation."

The workshop will occur in various settings, both indoors and outdoors, depending on the topic being presented. Some of them will take place in Thunder Bay, but due to the remote nature of operators, workshops will also be scheduled around the district. The first workshop on nature-based tourism is at the Red Rock Interpretive Center on June 16.

Clint Fleury

About the Author: Clint Fleury

Clint Fleury is a web reporter covering Northwestern Ontario and the Superior North regions.
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