Chris Brown Chris Brown Marketing Executive, Unquote

How Travel Manitoba created a sustainable funding model

From a new brand, to an innovative and sustainable funding model, Travel Manitoba has undergone massive change. Colin Ferguson, CEO at Travel Manitoba, outlined how they put Manitoba on the map and the thought processes behind some of their decisions.

CNP: Why do you think it’s important to have a conference that brings together place branding practitioners from across the world to discuss the biggest challenges and emerging opportunities for cities, regions and nations working on their place brand strategy?

CF: This will be the third time Travel Manitoba has attended CNP London. Travel Manitoba has been very active in developing Place Brands throughout the Province of Manitoba, to help communities, large and small, maximize on their tourism potential. CNP has proven very helpful in us learning more about branding, learning by example. 

It is important to have a conference that allows practitioners to share best practices to improve marketing and the experience for visitors worldwide.

CNP: How has your organisation or team’s role changed over the last five years? And what major trend or issue do you predict will impact on your strategy in the coming years?

CF: Travel Manitoba has experienced significant change over the past 5 years. First of all, we launched an awe-inspiring brand that is changing the way people view Manitoba as a travel destination and maybe even changing the way Manitobans view themselves. Most importantly, we, Travel Manitoba created and sold a new sustainable funding model which sees 96% of the tax revenues generated by the tourism industry stay with government, while 4% goes directly to Travel Manitoba to market Manitoba to the world. And it is working. Tourism expenditures in Manitoba in year one of Plan 96/4 are up $100,000,000. The goal, increase tourism expenditures from $1.6B to $2.2B by 2022… and we are well on our way to do just that. This year, another highlight, as media giant Lonely Planet recognized the Manitoba region as one of the top 10 places in the world to visit. That has most certainly given put Manitoba on the unique experience bucket list. 

CNP: Effective place branding has always required a long-term view – and increasingly place brand strategies are aiming for more “sustainable” tourism and economic development. How do you define “sustainability” in place branding?

CF: We agree. A well thought out, well articulated, Place Brand is not a temporary campaign. It needs to be adopted, implemented, and in many cases used as both a tourism brand, but as importantly, an economic development brand. 

A sustainable tourism brand is one that is fully embraced by stakeholders and delivers on the promise expressed by the brand.

CNP: Authenticity is perhaps one of the biggest buzzwords in place branding – what do you think is the key to creating an authentic place brand?

CF: The truth. It is often easy to create a brand… but it needs to be real. The brand needs to reflect how both residents and visitors feel about the destination. Do your homework… and research your creative.

CNP: Engaging the citizens who live in your city, region or nation has always been a key element of successful place branding strategy, but why and how can you engage your diaspora as ambassadors for your place?

CF: Social media has provided a strong platform for engaging ambassadors for Travel Manitoba.  In particular, Instagram is fostering a culture of pride of place for Manitobans.

 CNP: Do you think it’s important to connect place branding more effectively with placemaking / place shaping?

CF: Yes.  Place making strengthens the capacity of destinations to deliver on the promises of their brand and exceed visitor expectations.

CNP: Why is it crucial for places to explore more innovative approaches to funding?

CF: This has changed the course for the better for Travel Manitoba. We were the lowest funded province in Canada when it can to tourism investment. Government has indicated they would develop a sustainable funding model for the future, but seeing none forthcoming we created one for ourselves… and sold it to government with the help of the Manitoba Chambers of commerce. Plan 96/4 sees 4% of the tax based revenues generated by the tourism industry going to travel Manitoba, 100% of which is invested back into marketing initiatives. And it is working.  

And while we are still 10th in terms of Provincial funding levels, we are gaining. But more importantly, we are 5th in terms of ROI.  

CNP: Do you think places could be using data more effectively to inform and shape place branding strategy?

CF: Absolutely. In Manitoba, we are trying to access as much data as we can in an effort to ensure our brand is doing its job. Regrettably, in smaller communities throughout the Province, area specific data is very difficult to obtain. 

CNP: If you had a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel anywhere – all expenses paid – where would you go?

CF: Slovenia. They so impressed me at last years CNP.

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The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.