Chi-Cheemaun co-op marketing program extended to retail, cafés

Initiative catching on in accommodation sector

OWEN SOUND—The first volley of the Destination Manitoulin campaign aimed at helping to turn around a decline in ferry traffic between Manitoulin Island and Tobermory has already proven to be a success in the accommodation sector. Now, the collaborative marketing effort between the Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC) and Island stakeholders has expanded to include retail operations with ‘Passage to Savings.’

OSTC CEO and president Susan Schrempf said she was pleased as to how the project was unfolding, but admitted that plans for a major marketing push for the ferry service was still awaiting input from the province. “And of course a lot will depend on what happens with the spring budget,” she said.

That certainly does not mean that the ferry service’s efforts are remaining static. Plans for dining, entertainment and stargazing cruises are well along in development, providing value-added content to the crossing in an effort to tap into the local market. “The local summer folk are a market that we are promoting,” said Ms. Schrempf. “We will be introducing a walk-on round trip excursion fair.”

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In the meantime, the Island side of the equation has been barreling ahead at full steam, with the expansion of the Destination Marketing campaign from accommodation to all aspects of retail and product offerings on Manitoulin.

The initial Destination Manitoulin accommodation program ‘Passage to Saving’ rollout has been good to Manitoulin Island’s accommodation sector with participating businesses enabling their guests to receive a discount on their Chi-Cheemaun fare.

Spearheading the Island-side effort with ‘Passage to Savings’ are Cathy and Ameal Leduc of South Baymouth‘s Buckhorn Motel and Snack Shack. Mr. Leduc explained how the program works.

“All retail businesses, gift shops, restaurant, recreation activities and such are now able to be combined with the accommodations and ferry participants of the Destination Manitoulin program,” he said. “As a participant in the program, the business operation will receive two program stickers which must be displayed where the customer can easily see that you’re a participant in the program.”

The customer in turn must present a ‘Passage to Savings’ discount card that they have received from the resort where they are staying for a 10 to 20 percent discount on purchases over $25 from participating retailers. Some products, such alcohol, fuel and lottery products, are excluded from the discount for regulatory reasons. There may be other similar restrictions which apply as well.

“When the accommodations issue the discount card, they must print an expiry date on the back of the discount card valid for one week of savings,” said Mr. Leduc. “The customer keeps the card with them to present at the business offering the discounts.”

The OSTC is assisting with this part of the program by establishing two separate links on their website for Destination Manitoulin and Passage to Savings discounts with participating business and location information.

“Tourists will now be able to go to the OSTC webpage (www.ontarioferries.com) and plan their holiday,” said Mr. Leduc. “Whether it is booking their accommodations, ferry crossings, finding restaurants, galleries or recreational activities, they will be able to match up with Destination Manitoulin ‘Passage to Savings’ discounts.”

There is still plenty of room for local accommodations and resorts to sign onto the Destination Manitoulin program. That unique collaboration between accommodations and the OSTC and the Chi -Cheemaun Ferry is aimed at transforming the brand of Manitoulin Island into a ‘destination.’

“The goal is to increase ridership on the ferry as well as to build tourism on the Island,” noted Mr. Leduc. “By offering a combination of discounts for accommodations along with the ferry, we believe this will encourage tourists to come and this will be beneficial to all.”

The idea is to ‘grow the pie’ so that each Island business benefits from increased ridership on the ferry.

The Destination Manitoulin program offers the customer a discount on the ferry and a discount at the participating place of accommodation on Manitoulin Island. The customer must have a reservation with a participating motel, bed and breakfast, cabin or resort to be eligible for a tag number from that business to receive the 10 percent discount with the ferry. The participating accommodation must also agree to give their customers at least a $5 booking discount.

Many businesses are upping the ante on the discounts, noted Mr. Leduc. “We (the Buckhorn Motel) offer the $5 discount on each room for each night of their stay,” he said. “If we get three people under one tag, that is fine.” The potential increase in business is well worth the discount, he adds. “That is each business’s own prerogative, to offer whatever discount they want, as long as they meet the minimum, but there is a lot of opportunity to be creative with the program after that.”

As for the other offerings coming from the marketing efforts of the OSTC and the Chi-Cheemaun ferry, stay tuned to the OSTC website and Ms. Schrempf said that she would be tweeting out a head’s up on the ferry’s Twitter account.

For information on joining Destination Manitoulin and/or the Passage to Savings program, Contact Cathy or Ameal at (705) 859-3635 or by email to destination_manitoulin@hotmail.com.

mike@manitoulin.ca