Colin Ferguson, Travel Manitoba President & CEOWhat an exciting time this is for Manitoba’s entire tourism industry. Over the last year, we’ve seen the opening of major attractions, we’ve witnessed the celebration of Manitoba as a four season destination, and we’ve welcomed visitors from around the world to our festivals and events.

When combined with our marketing efforts, the past year’s accomplishments are having a significant impact on the success of Manitoba’s tourism industry. Through July, Manitoba was leading the country in overnight visits from non-residents to Canada – up 20% over the same period in 2014. In the accommodations sector, Manitoba is keeping pace with BC, posting an increase in hotel occupancy through the end of August of 2.2%. And in the same period, Manitoba hotels were also able to boost their revenue per available room by 5.9%.

And now as the last of the leaves fall to the ground, as the polar bears of our north begin their migration to the sea ice, the excitement continues with the opening of the new leading edge Travel Manitoba Visitor Information Centre at The Forks, arguably the best tourism address in the province.

At the heart of it all is serving the visitor, whether they are coming from far away distances, or Manitoba residents wanting to find out more about their province.  With our industry members providing memorable, authentic and immersive experiences, it is Travel Manitoba’s job to spark interest in those experiences, and showcase our province to the world. And this is exactly what we have been doing over the last year.

When we launched Manitoba, Canada’s Heart…Beats, the immediate response from the tourism industry was overwhelmingly positive. And the impressive survey results since launching have shown that consumers are responding positively to our campaign featuring television, online, in-flight, print and out of home advertising.

In addition to this feedback, our brand has also been recognized both at home and abroad, with nominations and wins at the local Signature Awards, the national Canadian Tourism Awards and Canadian eTourism Awards, and the international WorldMediaFestival awards based in Hamburg, Germany which received 158 entries from 22 countries.

The momentum of our brand has been carried over onto our online channels, where we have reached over 40,000 Facebook fans, 20,000 Twitter followers, and over 17,000 Instagram followers. And our blog ManitobaHot.com has experienced an increase in traffic of more than 300% year over year. And our engagement with these audiences continues to grow with innovative content marketing campaigns, including our wildly popular ExploreMB Instagram campaign that celebrated our brand ambassadors with coveted ExploreMB photo books, and our friendly Roadside Madness competition, where 75,000 votes cast saw Flin Flon’s Fintabbatey Flonatin come out on top.

The success of Manitoba’s tourism industry is tied into the strength of our marketing efforts which are bolstered by our industry partnerships. Strong industry participation led to a 24% increase in partnership sales and the creation of our Invest in Tourism Program, where corporate partners are making a valuable contribution to help Travel Manitoba market this great province on domestic and international Air Canada flights over three years. I thank our Invest in Tourism partners for their generous support:  Air Canada, Calm Air, Canad Inns, Diageo, Johnston Group/Payworks, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, MTS, McKim Communications Group, Parks Canada, Scotiabank, VIA Rail, Winnipeg Free Press, and Winnipeg Airports Authority. Their collective contribution, matched by government, is helping to attract visitors to Manitoba.

And as those partners are helping us market our brand around the world, our international travel trade and media relations efforts are influencing the influencers: those travel writers and tour operators from our key markets:  the U.S., the U.K., and Germany. Sharing our experiences with international buyers at major events such as Rendez-Vous Canada and Destination Canada’s GoMedia Marketplace, the latter, hosted right here in Winnipeg last summer, attracting some 110 media professionals who published articles reaching more than 600 million potential travellers.

The doors of our new Visitor Information Centre are now open, and we are ready to inspire visitors and residents alike and to build on the successes of the past year. Please see our 2014/2015 Annual Report for a complete review of the past year’s accomplishments.

I look forward to welcoming you at our new Visitor Information Centre and head office at The Forks just as we all look forward to welcoming even more visitors to Manitoba as they discover that here, Canada’s heart…beats.