Winnipeg Free Press increases revenue from travel partner by 10 times with revamped relationship

By Laurie Finley

Having previously fostered a successful relationship with a local homebuilders’ association, staff at Winnipeg Free Press began looking for more such opportunities.

We found one with Travel Manitoba, the local tourism arm for our region. 

In 2010, we were created a small publication with Travel Manitoba. We encouraged them to sit down with us and explore how we could help them not only revitalise their publications, but find ways to save money.

During our research, we discovered Travel Manitoba had six publications, many of which had overlapping information. After several discussions, we were able to eliminate three publications and incorporate them into the new vacation guides we jointly decided on producing. 

We now have all-inclusive vacation guides covering the spring/summer, fall, and winter seasons, and we were able to eliminate separate publications on accommodations, fishing, and hunting. 

This relationship has gone from producing three vacation guides per year to producing a weekly travel page that runs in our Saturday travel section. We also produce and run it in 12 other newspapers in regions where Travel Manitoba hopes to draw tourism audiences.

In addition, we have built a landing page as part of our online travel content that allows the organisation to showcase events throughout its tourism regions.

We write the content for the magazines and landing page with their input, and provide magazine distribution in six cities covering three Canadian provinces and North Dakota, our U.S. neighbour to the south.

These guides have been the basis for a complete rebranding and focus that Travel Manitoba recently embarked upon.

The ability for us to coordinate distribution through partner newspapers has also made it easy for the organisation to analyse results in regions and change distribution patterns to test new areas.

The ability to distribute with daily newspapers and gain access directly into households has raised the awareness far more than the self-serve distribution they had through travel centers. 

Despite the overall success of this partnership, it’s worth noting that although we had the trust and support of Travel Manitoba’s CEO, it took a more than a year to completely get the buy in of some of the other key management team — especially as they saw some elimination of jobs at Travel Manitoba due to our ability to take over tasks that were previously handled internally. 

This completely turnkey partnership between Winnipeg Free Press and Travel Manitoba has allowed the tourism agency to reduce internal staff and reduce its overall print marketing costs. As for us, we have turned a C$100,000 relationship into a more than C$1 million per year relationship.

The key for long-term sustainability for us is to continue exploring new innovative products, which we did earlier this year with the launch of Augmented Reality in the most recent travel guide.

About Laurie Finley

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