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Don’t abandon what’s tried and true with tourism industry

['Commentary with Geoff deGannes']
['Commentary with Geoff deGannes']

Commentary with Geoff deGannes

Nova Scotia’s tourism industry continues to grow in leaps and bounds and the latest figures indicate that 2017 is shaping up to be another banner year for the industry.  

Last week, Tourism Nova Scotia proclaimed that the province attracted 46,000 more non-resident overnight visitors in August this year than it did in August 2016, an increase of 11 per cent. 

The provincial tourism agency released monthly statistics last Thursday which suggested Ontario contributed 18,000 additional visitors this August and Quebec an additional 12,000 people when compared to August last year. 

The agency is attributing the increased number of visitors from Ontario and Quebec to promotional efforts in those targeted markets.

Other factors have come into play including the growing reluctance of Canadians to travel to the United States and face delays at several border crossings along with the value of the dollar.

In turn, a growing number of U.S. visitors are choosing Nova Scotia as their travel destination of choice.

From Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, non-resident overnight visits to Nova Scotia increased by nine per cent compared to 2016. The preliminary estimate of tourism revenues for year-to-date August 2017 is $1.8 billion, compared with $1.7 billion in 2016.  

As the major entry point to the province, most of those visitors pass through our corridor at Fort Lawrence and many of them are stopping to use the services of the province’s Visitor Information Centre. 

 The centre was a beehive of activity this summer, particularly with an increase in bus tours to the province. It is hard to believe that just over a year ago, Tourism Nova Scotia officials viewed the six visitor information centres across the province as expendable as it looked at other options to meet the needs of visitors.   

Some misguided bureaucrats in the system seem to believe such front-line one-on-one services where visitors can actually be counselled by a “real person” is antiquated and should be replaced with impersonal online information.   

After a public outcry and pressure from the union representing tourism counsellors, the McNeil Liberal Government stepped in and announced that it would ensure the VICS remained in operation indefinitely.  

However, there’s been no clear indication from the crown corporation on the long-term status of the VICs, only to say the province would be looking at a new model going forward that might involve partnerships with the private sector or municipalities.

It is no secret that Tourism Nova Scotia’s marketing plan is focused on targeting a higher end clientele with deeper pockets who are looking for the resort vacation. They are the types of visitors who are likely to be more technology savvy and inclined to book an online package to a specific destination.  The Crown corporation sees that as a key to doubling annual revenues to $4 billion by 2024.   

Obviously, it takes innovation to foster growth. However, the province can’t lose sight of the tried and true. That is the knowledge, expertise and downhome hospitality that those in the front line of tourism bring to the visitors’ experience of Nova Scotia. The Visitor Information Centres are an important component and Tourism Nova Scotia would be wise to enhance the service rather than downgrade it.

Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.

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