Planning is important in this province’s tourism industry, and with only a short window to make things happen, operators must be ready and on schedule to welcome visitors at peak times during the tourism season.
That was disrupted last summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the province was cut off to outside visitors.
The importance of having a plan heading into the 2021 season is paramount as the tourism sector stares down the barrel of a second season limited by the pandemic.
“It is important that the plan is being worked on,” said Hare Bay Adventures owner Duane Collins, who is also with the Shore Tourism Association. “I think it is important that it is relayed to the industry broadly … and then it lets us communicate that to our guests and to the companies we work with.”
The pre-election announcement of a tourism action group was a welcome one for operators across the province and seen as a good start, Collins said.
On Jan. 15, the government announced the 14-member Premier’s Advisory Council on Tourism. The government pledged to spend $1.12 million over three years to support Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador as it prepares the tourism and hospitality sector for a post-pandemic recovery.
That money is coming through the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Market Development Agreement.
That means the industry wasn’t overlooked at the time, but there is still a question of how the group will look or operate in the wake of the election on Feb. 13.
“I want to hear about a plan on how we open the province back up,” said Collins. “Not saying any particular date, because that is beyond our control, frankly.”
For Collins, clarity and transparency will be important as that plan continues to evolve.
There must also be an effort to work with the industry, he said.
Janet Davis had conversations last summer with plenty of people who had never before been to her home of New-Wes-Valley.
The owner of Norton’s Cove Studio and Café in the Brookfield part of the community, Davis found those conversations usually included a line about having little knowledge of her part of the province.
“The staycation has been really good for my business,” Davis said of what brought those people to her door.
As the election campaign begins to ramp up, how the next provincial government is going to help tourism operators in the future is at the top of a lot of operators’ minds.
For some, like Davis, want to continue to push people to explore their province as they did last summer through the Stay Home Year 2020 campaign.
“Keep promoting our own,” said Davis. “It’s great to have your own people supporting you.
“We have to keep promoting our own people.”
Deborah Bourden says the number of people who will explore their own province next summer is just a fraction of what is needed to keep the tourism sector going.
There also must be an effort to maintain the tourism department’s current pot for marketing initiatives, she says.
That means having the next government maintain the current level of funding being put into marketing initiatives, both locally and abroad.
“We don’t want to see any less in marketing,” said Bourden, who is the co-owner of the Anchor Inn Hotel & Suites in Twillingate.
If things start to open back up to national and international travel next fall, then a part of the tourism plan will need to look at how best to get those people into the province, she says.
“We have to be prepared so we can come out of the gate strong next year this time,” said Bourden. “We have to be thinking about what we need, and we need to be prepared for that.”
Nicholas Mercer reports from central Newfoundland.