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Tourist season off to good start here

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If numbers speak for themselves, the tourism industry has been doing lots of talking here since May 15.

Over the last two weekends alone, some 3,900 visitors have walked through the doors at the Ontario travel centre here--a good indication the local tourist season is about to shift into high gear.

Supervisor Jane Johnstone said about three-quarters of the count came over the Memorial Day long weekend in the U.S.--traditionally a popular time for Americans to travel into Canada.

Although Johnstone said overall numbers were up slightly from the same period last year, the flood of visitors wasn’t unexpected nor out of the ordinary.

“It was a very good and very interesting weekend. We were extremely busy,” she enthused. “The [numbers] were high but pretty well right on the mark.

“For being in the north, we are very fortunate,” she added. “We do very well when compared to centres in Pigeon River and Kenora.”

Johnstone also said the number of visitors will really start to climb in June once kids are out of school, predicting they’ll have well over the 2,000 mark every weekend.

Included in that figure will be two busloads of tourists every weekend from the Minneapolis area headed for Temple Bay on Eagle Lake near Dryden.

“Every Friday, we get two buses with 42 people on each one. That adds up!” she said.

While the overall visitor count for the 1997 season wasn’t readily available, Johnstone gave some indication of the impact of tourism on the centre’s map inventory last year.

“The Patricia area map is a very popular one because it shows all of the lakes in the area. We went through 6,000 of just that one brochure through the summer,” she remarked.

The impact tourism is expected to have on the area this year won’t come as a surprise to Tom Reid of Fort Duty Free nor NDP leader Howard Hampton, who stopped by the travel centre last Wednesday to help mark Ontario Tourism Week.

“I’ll make a bet with you that it will be a banner year for tourism. The American economy is booming,” Hampton enthused.

“Not since the 60s has their economy been this good. It’s the American factory workers and farmers walking around with money in their pockets and coming up for two weeks of fishing,” he noted.

“The exchange rate is very attractive [here], the fishing is good, and the hospitality is excellent,” he added.

Reid echoed Hampton’s outlook on the increasing impact tourism from the U.S. will have here, saying a combination of factors were responsible for it.

“The American economy is good. Their dollar is stronger here, there’s no gas wars, no fighting, and it’s not an election year--that ordinarily kept people home,” he reasoned.

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