The Chi-Cheemaun marketing focus will benefit all

When the M.S. Chi-Cheemaun cruises into South Baymouth next Tuesday to begin her nearly six-month-long sailing season, this particular event will not only be the annual harbinger of spring and summer that it always represents but it will also herald the tangible beginning of the ferry service’s new marketing strategy that can only benefit Manitoulin Island.

Anyone who goes down to watch the Chi-Cheemaun dock next week (or whenever you go) will be greeted by what is being already termed “the prettiest funnel” on the Great Lakes.

The Chi-Cheemaun’s operating company, the Owen Sound Transportation Company, has hired a southern Ontario marketing firm to re-brand the ferry ride as an experience that Ontarians and visitors must experience.

Much of this marketing initiative is geared to “The Manitoulin experience” and it is just getting underway in southern Ontario now.

But about that funnel (or stack): it now features stylized art representative of Manitoulin’s dual cultures and, over the next couple of years, these same graphics will also be applied to both sides of the ship’s hull that will make her a floating billboard visually promoting the experience of which she is a vital part.

The initiative for the new marketing strategy arose from the quite practical concerns about the steadily decreasing numbers of people using the Chi-Cheemaun to travel to Manitoulin and Northern Ontario. The decrease over a five-year period, in fact, approached 30 percent.

This prompted the Ontario government, the owners of the ship, and its operating company (The Owen Sound Transportation Company) to commission a study which, in turn, recommended a vigorous marketing initiative that would focus, for southern Ontarians and visitors from the US and other countries, on the Chi-Cheemaun experience and on the “magic and mystery” of Manitoulin Island.

That is why next Tuesday is a significant day as this will be the first sailing date that is associated with a marketing initiative that is not primarily focused on transportation but rather on a unique experience of which Manitoulin Island is a vital part.

The Chi-Cheemaun is a vital part of the Manitoulin tourism economy. This market focus will inevitably shine a bright light on Manitoulin Island, as many people in the south, new Canadians in particular, will be learning about Manitoulin as they learn about the Chi-Cheemaun through the various advertising modes presently being rolled out.

The bright new graphics that we can all see on the Chi-Cheemaun’s funnel next week and thereafter are very directly all about us on Manitoulin Island.