AMHERST – Many tourists entering Nova Scotia pass through Cumberland County without considering what is has to offer.
That’s something Amherst and its municipal partners want to change.
Amherst, Oxford and the Municipality of Cumberland have decided to put together a joint tourism strategic planning committee that will meet over the next year to put together a new tourism strategy to maximize the value of tourism to the economy of Cumberland County.
“The tourism economy has a lot of opportunity. There’s a lot of money to be made in tourism and I’m really excited to be part of making that happen in Cumberland County,” Amherst’s business development officer Rebecca Taylor told members of the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting.
She told chamber members the committee will work to identify who’s visiting Cumberland County and who future visitors might be. It will make a catalog of everything the county has to offer and look at what marketing activities are, look at what others are offering and then take a look at the county’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Then, she said, it will establish a vision with objectives and goals as well as action plans to develop experiences and new tourism products, while development new marketing plans to get the most return on its investment.
All of this is aimed at increasing visitors to Cumberland County.
Taylor said Tourism Nova Scotia tries to attract three types of tourists including the cultural explorers, those seeking authentic experiences and thrill seekers who like to do exotic things and are not afraid to spend money to achieve that. It’s something she believes Cumberland County can do a better job of enticing to this corner of the province.
Tourism, she said, plays a key role in Nova Scotia’s economic development. The industry brought in $1.5 billion in 2016 in export tourism. Total tourism was about $2.5-billion.
“We love tourism as an export industry is because people who don’t live here bring their money here,” she said. “It’s outside money coming in. In fact, tourism revenue growth is stronger and faster than all our economic growth.”
This money enables the growth of the tourist industry and it also supports government programs. It’s the purest form of economic development, Taylor added, in that it stimulates new business investment and entrepreneurship.
She said it’s important for Cumberland County to work to grab a piece of that growing tourism pie. With Tourism Nova Scotia placing emphasis on world class experiences, she said, there has to be an emphasis locally on enhancing its offering to attract those tourists willing to spend money and then rave about it after on social media.
“This is something Cumberland County can benefit from, the confidence we have something to offer and that we can develop some experiences that people will pay a lot of money to do,” she said. “We’re very lucky here. Of all the visitors who came to Nova Scotia in 2017, and there 2.4 million of them, 59 per cent entered the province at our border. That’s 1.4 million people who entered Nova Scotia here by car.”
Still, if the majority of them are coming by Amherst on their way into Nova Scotia, she said, not many of them are stopping in Cumberland County and when they do stop, they’re not staying very long.
“Of that 1.4 million, only five per cent are stopping and only one per cent are staying overnight,” she said. “At best, if one per cent that came into Nova Scotia stayed overnight, that’s 24,000 people.”
The average stay in Amherst is 1.6 nights. In Tatamagouche, the average stay is 3.4 nights. The average spend per day for tourists in the Amherst area is between $98 and $250 per person per day.
For Cumberland County, tourism revenue amounted to $3.4 million.
“We’re going to do something about that,” she said.
By adding a day to how long people stay in the area, it will increase tourism revenue to $5.5 million. Or if the number of people visiting Cumberland County doubles, revenue will be $6.8 million. Doing both would result in $11 million in tourism revenue.
“It makes sense,” she said.