It appears we're back to square one when it comes to how best to welcome tourists coming into Northwestern Ontario through the Fort Frances border crossing.
The town has done an admirable job filling the void when the Ontario government abruptly shuttered several tourist information centres across the province, including the one here. For the past few years, it paid a lease to occupy the centre during the summer months in order to provide information to visitors—and give them a convenient place to use restroom facilities following a long wait in a border lineup.
The town also invested in attractive displays there, particularly the full-sized stuffed moose. There also was talk of having a bass in a fish tank there.
The cost of the lease had been shared with the Sunset Country Tourism Association, which made sense given Fort Frances is the main welcome mat for all of Northwestern Ontario. But with that grant no longer available, the cost to remain in the tourist information centre is too prohibitive to continue.
The town has opted to stay for this summer (until the end of August), then it will be left to find a new location to offer tourist information starting in 2018. Possible options include the Fort Frances Museum and the Sorting Gap Marina, or setting up a tent at either the new Rainy Lake Market Square or at the border.
In the end, though, the best place to provide such information is in the centre itself, with its convenient location, attractive appearance, accessible restrooms, and adequate parking for motorists driving motorhomes or pulling boats/campers.
What really needs to be done is for the province to reverse its idiotic decision to close the tourist information centres in the first place, especially the choice to abandon the one here while keeping the one at Pigeon River open even though it sees far less tourist traffic (we could mention it happens to be in a riding with a Liberal MPP but that would be cynical).
Our area depends on tourism as a major economic engine. As such, every effort must be made to promote the region.
Equally important, though, is being able to offer a welcoming atmosphere to entice visitors and keep them coming back.
That involves having a top-notch physical presence at the border, with the province shouldering the responsibility—and cost—as chief greeter.