The Bahamas Goes North
Tourist Office Ventures To Oil Sands – Canada’s Most Lucrative Market
Leading a small group of Caribbean tourist office representatives, Steven Johnson, Senior Marketing Manager at the Bahamas Tourist Office (BTO) Canada traveled almost 2,400 miles to Ft. McMurray in the Wood-Buffalo Region of Northern Alberta to promote The Islands Of The Bahamas.
Brainchild, of Mr. Johnson, the trip had been in the planning stages for close to a year, and is seen as an integral part of the Bahamas’ marketing strategy to attract high-value clients to the destination.
The town of Ft. McMurray and surrounding communities is home base to just over 116,000 residents, most of whom work in the natural resources sector, namely oil sands extraction – Canada’s leading driver of economic growth. In fact, the average income for workers in the oil sands is 30% – 50% higher than that of any other industry in Canada. Starting annual salary for general laborers in the oil sands is $87,000 while the average for skilled mechanics and technicians is $125,000 according to a recent report published by Hays Oil and Gas – a major player in the Oil Sands Region.
These lucrative jobs are held generally by young men and women, many of whom are recent high school and trade/vocational college graduates. As a result of the abundance of high-paying jobs available, workers are migrating from all areas of the country to Ft. McMurray which is a short drive from several major oil sands operations, causing its population to snowball. The town had 47,000 people in the 2006 census, and 61,000 in 2011 -- a jump of nearly 29 per cent in five years. By 2030, the town is expected to have nearly quadrupled its population, to 231,000.
“We have always relied on research to determine where to focus our marketing efforts, and all recent analysis points to the success of the oil sands and to the fact that Canadians working there are the highest paid, with the most disposable income than any other sector in Canada.” stated Mr. Johnson. He note further that despite the exorbitant revenues generated by oil sands mining, Ft. McMurray remains a simple – though well equipped – northern Canadian wilderness town. As such, most of the residents travel south almost monthly to the cities of Edmonton and Calgary, the United States and even further into the Caribbean region to escape the harsh winters that can go on for 9 months and the too-short-too-cool summers that can be as short as 2 months.
Mr. Johnson reasoned, “Within a 4 hour’s drive is Edmonton, Alberta’s capital city, where travelers can board a direct flight to Grand Bahama Island, or from Calgary to Nassau and the Out Islands of The Bahamas, we believe that The Bahamas has a great opportunity to attract these high-value vacationers to our shores. Currently the majority of vacationers from the region travel to Las Vegas and Cuba…we are working to change that.”
While in Ft. McMurray, the Caribbean tourism executives paid a courtesy call to the Honorable Melissa Blake, mayor of the Wood Buffalo Regions, which includes the town of Ft. McMurray and most of the oil sands territory. They also conducted training and information seminars for local travel agents and staged a consumer travel show at the Macdonald Island Park – Canada’s largest community recreational, leisure and social centre, where they saw over 30,000 visitors and showcased several package vacations options to The Bahamas offered by Canadian tour operators.
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