Destination Manitoulin discount program expands

SOUTH BAYMOUTH—With the success of the Destination Manitoulin discount program for those sailing on the M.S. Chi-Cheemaun and using local accommodations this past fall, the program will not only continue but expand to include restaurants, gift shops or any other retail business on Island this year.

“The Destination Manitoulin program was successful, especially when you consider it only started in the fall,” stated Susan Schrempf, president and CEO of the Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC), when contacted by the Recorder on Monday. “We are pleased with the results that have been posted by Ameal and Cathy Leduc, and we are doing a comparison of numbers of people that used the program at our end at the terminals. We think the figures will be pretty close.”

“Absolutely, the program is going to continue and it’s going to be expanded,” said Ms. Schrempf.

Mr. Leduc, owner of the Buckhorn Motel in South Baymouth, told the Recorder, “the program, which ran for September and half of October, had 141 Destination Manitoulin customers served, and included 21 businesses being part of the program. It got running in September, so it was only running for a month-and-a-half and the numbers seem to be pretty good. Susan (Schrempf) seems to be pretty happy with the figures. And when you consider it was not advertised until the end of August I think it was definitely a success.”

“We are interested in adding restaurants and gift shops and other retail businesses to the program this year,” said Mr. Leduc.

“The OSTC and the participants have been doing a great job,” said Mr. Leduc. He explained that it is being proposed that customers using the restaurant and gift shop businesses who participate in the program will receive, say, 10 percent off every $25 spent as long as they show a card saying they are using the Chi-Cheemaun.”

“We are hoping the program will grow, and once more people hear about it and it catches on, we think there will be even more participants in the program,” said Mr. Leduc.

Ms. Schrempf pointed out as well, “we will be developing and including the Destination Manitoulin program in our advertising and marketing to make the Island a destination. When people are looking at Manitoulin and how to get there and what there is to see, if we can help facilitate this by providing better value for their buck, all the better. And we have fairly big plans for our advertising of the Chi-Cheemaun this winter, and will tie the Destination Manitoulin program to it.”

Ms. Schrempf also pointed out the OSTC is carrying out a facelift of the terminal building in South Baymouth. “We are pushing 40 years (since the terminal was opened) and the inside of the terminal building has never had a facelift.”

“One of the changes being made is that the ticket booth will be moved out a little bit so it will be more interactive with visitors and be better for office staff,” said Ms. Schrempf. “And we are having the display area redone. We want there to be more people space—right now it is basically an empty space and this is going to be spruced up.”

“We are pretty excited about what they are going to be doing to the terminal building,” continued Mr. Leduc. “It will no longer be empty, and there will be things for people to see and do when they are waiting to get on the ferry. And the terminal will be interactive for the public.”

As for the 2014 season and any concerns that may be out there about whether the Chi-Cheemaun will set sail at its regular time, Ms. Schrempf said, “it doesn’t look like there is going to be any problem in getting the season started on time this year. It wasn’t a matter of the water levels being low that was the problem in 2013, it had to do with the fenders at the docks, and this was taken care of this year.”

“So now any other business accommodations, and now restaurants and gift shops, can join in the Destination Manitoulin discount program. All these business owners need to do is contact Cathy or I at the Buckhorn Motel Hotel at 705-859-3635 and we can send them all the information they need and get them signed up to be participating in the program,” said Mr. Leduc.

The goal of the discount program is to increase ridership on the ferry as well as build tourism on the Island. By offering a combination of discounts for accommodations (and now restaurants and gift shops) packaged with the ferry, it is anticipated tourists will be encouraged to come to the Island, benefitting everyone.

Tom Sasvari