TOPIC: We need pathways to Nova Scotia, not roadblocks
Darlene Grant Fiander - Tourism Connection
(Originally published in the Oct. 2011 issue of the Nova Scotia Business Journal)
Lately there has been renewed public attention around ferry service into Yarmouth and the ongoing impact the lack of ferry service is having. Surprisingly, many still perceive it as a “Yarmouth only” issue. Part of the challenge we face is that we are not discussing access and transportation issues in a broad way that considers the flow of tourism and trade into and out of the province.
This summer, as part of a campaign with the Hotel Association of Canada to connect with federal politicians, I visited communities throughout Nova Scotia and met MPs in their ridings. While we were traveling throughout the province and visiting tourism operators and businesses, there was not one time that the issue of the decline in the U.S. visitors was not expressed. Operators from all over Nova Scotia have noticed a drop in the United States market and attribute it to the lack of ferry access into the province. Last year much of the business that was destined for Yarmouth was rerouted to the Digby/Saint John Ferry. Customers who had booked and paid did not have decisions to make. This year we are seeing a truer picture of the impact on business levels.
As a province, we need to decide if a ferry route is an important part of our provincial infrastructure, like roads are. Nova Scotia is basically an island. We have 7,600 kilometres of coastline. We are surrounded by water on three sides and connected to our neighbouring province by a small area of land at the northern tip of Nova Scotia in Amherst. Cape Breton, on the eastern side of the province, is an actual island connected to the mainland by way of the Canso Causeway. From a tourism destination perspective, our geography is a blessing and the simple and slower paced seacoast lifestyle holds a great deal of appeal, especially for our neighbours to the south. However, if we continue to make it expensive and difficult to get to us, we will continue to erode tourism and trade.
The United States is a market of 350 million people geographically and culturally connected to us. In 2010 outbound tourism was up in the U.S. by two per cent. The U.S. visitor is traveling and Nova Scotia needs to figure out how we can resonate as a destination of choice. With the rising cost of air travel making Canada less attractive, and limited alternatives to get to us in Nova Scotia, the challenges are mounting.
We need a broad and holistic look at Nova Scotia’s tourism potential and we need to start investing in the infrastructure that will enable growth and spur new investment in rural communities throughout Nova Scotia.
Let’s start looking at tourism the way we look at the other resource-based industries and maybe our rural communities could be the next Cape Cod or Bar Harbour to our American friends seeking refuge from their over-populated and busy cities. We just need to make sure they have a way to get to us.
Darlene Grant Fiander is the president of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia and is also executive director of the Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council. Darlene has worked in the tourism industry for over 25 years. You can reach Darlene at email@example.com