Winnipeg has been included in Time magazine’s annual list of 100 of the World’s Greatest Places, and it probably could not have come at a better time.
By some estimates the pandemic has caused about $1 trillion in lost revenue to the global tourism industry.
In a normal year in Winnipeg alone, travellers spend more than $600 million.
The official damage to the industry caused by the pandemic has not yet been tallied but Colin Ferguson, the CEO of Tourism Manitoba said, "it won’t be good and the recovery won’t happen overnight."
The city’s inclusion in Time magazine’s list will help juice that recovery.
Focusing on the recent opening of Qaumajuq, the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s 185,000-square-foot celebration of the world’s largest collection of contemporary Inuit art, the Time magazine entry — which includes a small graphic characterization of Qaumajuq on the cover — becomes another important recognition for the regional tourism industry to be able to point to.
"When I saw the magazine cover with the little image of WAG Qaumajuq on there, it just sent shivers down my spine," said Stephen Borys, CEO of the WAG.
Borys believes that even more than noting the iconic architecture and the significance of the collection of 14,000 pieces of art from Canada’s Northern people, its presence in the city and the fact that it is recognized by Time "raises the profile of art, Indigenous art, the Arctic, human rights, reconciliation… and I think it makes for why they are writing about this: Winnipeg is a very attractive destination to learn and be exposed to a lot of important things right now."
Time’s third annual list of the World’s Greatest Places, whose only other Canadian entry is Jasper, Alta., was looking for nominations that discovered "new offerings and exciting experience."
Winnipeg’s inclusion follows on the prestigious listing of Manitoba in the Lonely Planet’s top 10 places to visit in 2019. It’s not necessarily a tourist draw, but Winnipeg was also recently included in the annual selection of the top seven most intelligent communities in the world.
"Coming out of the pandemic, we need to do everything we can to make sure Winnipeg is front and centre," said Dayna Spiring, the CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg.
She said the city will now be out there trying to sell the city in the very competitive meetings and conventions marketplace that is just starting to open up again, and every bit of profile helps.
"All those things are game-changers and right now our tourism industry needs it more than ever," she said.
“Winnipeggers sometimes take the city for granted a little bit. We forget what is in our own backyard. Here is another shining example. It is richly deserving of the attention and recognition because Qaumajuq is really quite something.” – Colin Ferguson, CEO of Tourism Manitoba
The short Time piece also highlights winter activities in the city like the global Warming Huts design competition at The Forks and outdoor winter concerts at the New Music Festival. This past winter served to encourage many of us to embrace the winter likely more than we might otherwise have done since so many normal indoor activities were off limits.
Ferguson said the pandemic has also caused many Manitobans to explore places in the province that they’d never seen before "and might not have known existed"
"Winnipeggers sometimes take the city for granted a little bit," he said. "We forget what is in our own backyard. Here is another shining example. It is richly deserving of the attention and recognition because Qaumajuq is really quite something."
The fact there was no lobbying undertaken or even any fees paid makes inclusion in the Time list that much more valuable.
"These are really high honours," Ferguson said. "Those of us who live here know about the city but a lot of the world doesn’t know about some of these things. I’m very pleased for the city. I think it is on a very good path forward."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.