Explorers’ Edge has established a shuttle service to complement Porter Airline’s service to Muskoka.
The flight service pilot was established by Explorers’ Edge in partnership with the airline and the District of Muskoka to increase tourism to the area.
“The further a traveler comes from, the more they spend and the longer they stay,” noted James Murphy, Executive Director of Explorers’ Edge.
Murphy was before Huntsville’s Development Services Committee in May giving members an update on the organization’s initiatives in order to spread the benefits of air service throughout the region.
The 10-week summer service from June 27, 2019, to September 3, 2019, runs flights from Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport to Gravenhurst. Flights from Billy Bishop to Gravenhurst cost $72, while flights from Gravenhurst to Toronto cost $45.
Explorers’ Edge has also developed five different shuttle service routes “that leave the airport every time a plane lands to disperse travelers throughout the region,” Murphy said. Routes include one through Port Severn; another through Port Carling up to Minette and into Rosseau; a third through Bala, Wahta and Parry Sound; a fourth that shuttles visitors through Dwight, Dorset and into Algonquin Park to Whitney; and a fifth that runs through Huntsville to South River.
The shuttle has to be booked online at least 72-hours in advance and costs $10. Travelers can choose from a list of designated drop off locations if they are arriving on a flight. Shuttle service is also available to take passengers to the airport for outbound flights. See the routes and schedules here.
Another method of trying to spread the benefits of the flights carrying visitors to the area, or dispersion as Murphy put it, is through gift certificates offered to those who book a flight as well as accommodations. “We give four $25 vouchers to go out and spend with operators,” said Murphy, referring to local businesses since the vouchers cannot be used on accommodation.
Murphy and his team are also working on accessing other markets such as Chicago, New York, Boston, and Washington.
“We’re using what we do best, content marketing, and going into those markets,” he told the committee.
Murphy, who said he’s been involved in the tourism industry for many years and has been with the regional tourism organization for about eight years, described the project as “the nirvana of destination development.” He said getting an airline to agree to fly to your destination at an unknown and unproven airport with their stamp of approval is a big deal. “It’s like the biggest thing that can happen and it doesn’t happen very often, so kudos to not only our team but everyone that’s been a part of this to make it happen and bring it to fruition.”
Murphy also thanked the Town of Huntsville for its support through the years. He has been travelling around the region making similar presentations to garner support for the project. He asked the municipality to make a $10,000 contribution towards the marketing initiative.
“If we want to keep this service we need to all get on board and share it, support it, communicate it—whether you’re a business, municipality, township or just a resident here. Airlines do pull out of destinations if it’s not working. They’re in the business of putting people in seats so it’s a very collaborative effort,” said Murphy.
He said this will be a benchmark year and the shuttle routes will be tweaked as the program evolves.
Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison applauded the efforts of the team at Explorers’ Edge. “I know that you’ve personally put a great deal of energy into this and I want to congratulate you for it. It’s amazing work… it’s a great opportunity for all of us.”
You can find flight information at this link.
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