It was a great year for ridership on Northern Ontario’s premier visitor attraction. In fact, 2015 passenger levels on the Agawa Canyon Tour Train were the highest in eight years. More than 30,000 tourists rode the rails to the canyon this past season, which proved to be the best since 2007.
Earlier this year, following the establishment of a partnership agreement, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie assumed all marketing responsibilities for the Agawa Canyon Tour Train from CN Rail, which owns the attraction. With that, a focus was shifted to digital and television campaigns in strategic primary markets in southern Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin, along with secondary markets in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.
Tourism Sault Ste. Marie linked the digital marketing campaign to its online reservation system, a website that allows visitors to easily book their attractions, accommodations and entertainment. As a result, orders on the web-based portal for 2015 totaled more than $1 million, which was more than double from the previous year. With this concerted marketing effort, coupled with more American travellers getting passports, this past season was very encouraging for the Agawa Canyon Tour Train.
“We’re definitely seeing positive signs,” said Ian McMillan, Executive Director of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie. “The U.S. market, which has historically been crucial for us, is coming back. The results are substantial, and we look forward to building off this year’s success and continuing this trend moving forward.”
Another reason for the success of the 2015 tour train season is that Tourism Sault Ste. Marie and its industry partners recently developed a package that focuses on the iconic Group of Seven artists. The visitor offering includes a stop at the Art Gallery of Algoma to view original paintings and a ride to Agawa Canyon to see sites made famous by the Canadian artists. The Group of Seven package attracted 15 tour buses from across the United States and Ontario.
Between 2008 and 2014, annual ridership on the Agawa Canyon Tour Train ranged from 24,000 to 29,000. This past season was the first time passenger levels topped 30,000 in eight years. Since most riders spend at least two nights in Sault Ste. Marie, the economic impact is significant.
“The Agawa Canyon Tour Train is our community’s biggest tourism draw,” said McMillan. “Generally speaking, when the attraction is doing well, so are our accommodations facilities, restaurants and other entertainment venues. Given its significance to the local economy, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie will continue to focus on increasing ridership on the tour train.”