Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tourist traffic to flow and grow

Rights museum, IKEA offer boost, conference board says

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Several new attractions, including the giant IKEA store and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, will help keep tourism traffic growing at a steady pace over the next four years, according to a new forecast from the Conference Board of Canada.

The Ottawa-based think-tank said the number of overnight visits to Manitoba is expected to rise by 2.6 per cent to 3.6 million in 2013, and continue to climb in each of the following three years by an average of three per cent.

More overnight visits mean more tourism revenues for the province, the board said.

It predicted tourism spending will grow by 5.1 per cent to $1.14 billion in 2013, and continue climbing by an average of 5.4 per cent for each of the next three years, hitting a projected $1.33 billion in 2016.

The board said two of the biggest drivers behind the anticipated increase in tourism traffic will be the new attractions the province is adding and strong economic growth in the other western provinces.

"A lot of it (tourism traffic) is aligned with economic growth and your neighbours on the west side are the strongest growth provinces," said the board's associate director, Greg Hermus.

The new attractions the board cites include the IKEA store, which opened last month, the new Blue Bombers stadium, called Investors Group Field, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, the Upper Fort Garry Heritage Park and the upgrades to the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Hermus said conventions also bring a lot of visitors to the province, and a Tourism Winnipeg spokeswoman said there will be a big increase in the number of major conventions coming to the city in 2013.

Nisha Tuli said 12 major conventions are booked for the city next year, three times more than in 2012. Convention delegates tend to be bigger spenders than leisure travellers, Tuli said.

The Conference Board said the bulk of Manitoba's overnight visitors will be Canadians -- an estimated 3.3 million in 2013 alone.

But the biggest percentage gains will be in the number of overseas visitors, it said. That's expected to rise by 3.3 per cent to 87,000 in 2013, and continue to climb by an average of four per cent a year over the following three years.

The board said the number of U.S. visitors is expected to remain unchanged in 2013 and grow only modestly in the ensuing three years.

A Travel Manitoba official said that's been the pattern over the last few years, and she agreed that's not likely to change any time soon.

Linda Whitfield, the agency's vice-president of sales and marketing, said the slow economic recovery and a push to get Americans to spend their tourism dollars at home are hindering Manitoba's efforts to attract more U.S. visitors.

She said the United Kingdom and Germany continue to be the province's two best overseas markets for tourists.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2012 B1


Updated on Friday, December 21, 2012 at 7:17 AM CST: replaces photo

8:56 AM: fixes up table, adds as fact box

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