Travel Manitoba has launched a new brand that actually incorporates their previous change of brands. It's called "Manitoba Canada's Heart is Calling," and it promises to bring a boost to our local economy. Portage la Prairie has two Star Attractions -- The Fort la Reine Museum and Island Park. 

President and CEO Colin Ferguson calls it an evolved brand from one that first launched in January of 2014, and is expecting great results in boosting local economies. 

"We previously launched the 'Canada's Heart Beats' brand," says Ferguson. "In those days, it was a very different environment from an advertising perspective. We were starting to be challenged, particularly with the dominance of social media coming more into play and the ability to be more flexible. So, we created something called 'Manitoba Canada's Heart is Calling.' It's just a minor shift, one from a strategic point of view."

He says there were a few reasons why they made the slight change. They wanted to maintain that reference to Canada. Also, Ferguson explains the reference to the heart refers to the type of people that live in the province of Manitoba. Thirdly, the heart is in the centre of your body, corresponding to the centre of the country.

"And we used 'Calling' now," continues Ferguson. "Ten years after we launched 'Canada's Heart Beats,' it was to tell people that we're out there, that Manitoba's a player, and that we have to change people's opinion of Manitoba as a tourism destination. That was successful."


Ferguson adds all of the new assets available to everybody makes it a great opportunity to explore what our province has to offer.

"There are so many different ways that we can market this under," notes Ferguson. "When your heart needs quiet, for example, you'll be looking for things that calm, that are tranquil, such as nature spa getaways -- those kinds of things. When your heart needs to race, it's for people looking for thrilling recreation, exciting nightlife, big wildlife experiences, and polar bear viewing -- those kinds of things. When your heart needs to reflect -- for those seeking to learn something new or change their perspective. When your heart needs to sing --  those who want to come for concerts and festivals and performances, art shows and great food. And, of course, when your heart needs the wild, those are individuals who are looking for a world-class hunting and fishing opportunities."


He says there are some assets here in Portage and more are coming. 

"One, in particular, would be the National Residential School Museum. It's got a ways to go, but that is going to be a terrific opportunity," adds Ferguson. "The water park. When we did the Island on the Prairies brand, I don't know how many years ago this was now -- probably five or six or seven years ago -- I must admit I was somewhat unaware of this -- the scope of that adventure park. These are the kinds of assets, but it doesn't end with an existing play-park or something like that. It could be an event. It could be a festival. It could be different and unique culinary opportunities that exist in a given community."

Ferguson says the social media numbers reflecting the effect of the brand are quite amazing. He outlines how much these efforts affect local economy.

"The total tourism revenue spent in 2019, which was our largest year -- and that was the last year pre-pandemic, of course -- was $1.64 billion," explains Ferguson. "That's a 'B' -- billion dollars -- throughout the province of Manitoba. It generates hundreds of millions of tax-based revenues for the province of Manitoba. We work on our commission structure with them. It's called Plan 95/5. 95 per cent of the tax base revenues generated by the tourism industry remain with government for whatever their priorities might be at the time -- healthcare, infrastructure, and education. And 5 per cent goes to Travel Manitoba. So, the more we can grow, the more the industry benefits because they're getting the business. Two: government is getting more tax-based revenues, and as a result, Travel Manitoba gets a larger percentage, as well."

He says all of that goes back into marketing the province. 

"One of our largest sectors, for example, is hunting and fishing," continues Ferguson. "Ice fishing is anecdotally, probably, one of the fastest growing tourism products in the province, particularly amongst millennials. We've got an amazing ice fishing product. First of all, we've got lakes everywhere. That's one. Two: once it's frozen, it stays frozen. We don't get a lot of winter fluctuation. Nobody does winter better than Manitoba, and we just find better ways to enjoy and experience it. The opportunities are everywhere."

Ferguson adds this new brand provides them with the opportunity to address those opportunities everywhere.