Column Spotlight: Tourism Connection - Oct. 2011

Darlene Grant Fiander
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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

Organizations: Nova Scotia Business Journal, Hotel Association of Canada, Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, United States, Yarmouth Amherst Cape Breton Canada Nova Scotia.Let Cape Cod

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Recent comments

  • S. Endfield
    October 06, 2011 - 11:44

    Thank you Ms Fiander . Gov. officials have stated that the Ferry from the U.S. to Yarmouth brought in $50 million dollars yearly to the Province. Why would any government give that up for a $3 million dollar subsidy? Look at your list of subsidies and tell us which ones are bankrupt, brought in nothing and the ones that brought you million's to the Province. People all over N.S. and PEI have felt the sting of NO BOAT. Do we all need to work harder in South West Nova to create, promote and enhance out area's, YES. But lets not forget our beautiful natural wonders are what they always came for. A boat that can operate for both commercial transport, trucking, motor homes and tourist is a must. Everyone will bennifit by putting our water highway back.

  • Alex Dunn
    October 05, 2011 - 10:00

    The idea that the loss of a ferry that had a very limited capacity is responsible for provincial tourism woes is laughable. There are island destinations all over the world that do very well, thank you very much, because THEY HAVE GOOD PRODUCT. Our tourism product in the South West is laughable with alleged "resorts" charging as much for a room as a Manhattan hotel in high season (I stayed in one that had a large puddle as you entered the room and the walls were thin enough to hear a mouse sneeze. I paid $199/night! And sorry, Yarmouth, but you need to offer more than trinket shops to tourists. Here is a review by visitors: "I realize that Yarmouth is one of the largest ports on the western coast of Nova Scotia, it is a really boring city and it is kind of made out to seem otherwise. There are some interesting attractions around like Digby (great scallops) and some Acadian museums, but I would not recommend Yarmouth to anyone. The city was honestly quite depressing, plus it averages 191 days of fog per year. Halifax and all of PEI were our favorite parts of the honeymoon." Stop blaming all your problems on access and address the real problem. You offer visitors virtually nothing. And the rest of the province shouldn't subsidize travel to a dump. I know all you Yarmouthians are going to scream blue murder at me. That's easier than opening your eyes addressing your real problems. I have also worked in tourism for 25 years – Nova Scotia, PEI< Labrador, Canada, Netherlands and Israel. I suggest attitudes like Ms. Fiander's are the reason why tourism is in decline in Nova Scotia. It's time for a hard look Ms. Fiander, not just blaming everything else for our troubles. Get with the program or resign.

  • Kathleen Fitzgerald
    October 04, 2011 - 17:19

    Geographically Yarmouth is completely isolated without a ferry. We are not on the way to or from any other part of Nova Scotia. Aside from the essential tourism dollars that help us to survive -fisherman and manufacturers also need to be able to move products to importan New England markets. Air and Truck are nt reasonable financial options. Transportation links to New England and the US Seaboard are critical to our survival. Sadly the present administration appears to want to punish this area for not votin NDP. The world does not begin and end in Halifax. Mr. Dexter is supposed to respesent the best interests of all Nova Scotians. Reinstate our ferry ASAP!

  • Gayle
    October 01, 2011 - 19:37

    People in this end of N.s. are well accustomed to a lack of concern and disregard from Provincial and Federal politicians. 3 million was what was needed to keep the ferry going: 2 million is what Mr. McKay spent on airfare . Say no more.

  • fred crocker
    October 01, 2011 - 10:27

    This article hits the problem straight on, it remains very difficult to get to Nova Scotia. Airfare to Europe, from Boston is less expensive than to Halifax. The drive from Massachusetts is between 800 - 900 miles similar to the distance from Massachusetts to Myrtle Beach South Carolina. Many people who would like to visit don't want to spend most of their vacation getting to and from Nova Scotia instead of enjoying the beautiful seacoast. Unfortunately for the rest of Nova Scotia the Cruise industry is dropping off thousands of "tourists" for their day in Nova Scotia on the harbor front of Halifax, but how much do these tourists really spend when they have already paid for their meals and entertainment aboard ship, most likely a few trinkets from the pier 21 shops and possibly a tour bus to Peggys Cove. While the visitors that came over on the Ferry from Bar Harbor, or Portland were usually staying in the province more than a day and had to stay at hotels, eat at restaurants, purchase goods and services all along their route through the province. Has anyone looked into the cost of establishing the Pier 21 facility? was that considered infrastructure? There of course must be better ways to run the ferry, however as a very frequent user, (I used to do long weekends in Nova Scotia because of the ferry service) I feel that something needs to be done soon, however without a real unveiling of the tourist gap to the outlying areas of the province this will never happen, since the "quasi-tourist" cruise ship passenger numbers are polluting the real statistics and Halifax is rolling in the cash and not sharing

  • Juanita Sullivan
    September 30, 2011 - 23:12

    Yes this needs a broader look and why anyone thinks it's just a Yarmouth issue is beyond me. I know all of Nova Scotia is suffering, but Yarmouth is in bad shape and getting worse all the time. Crime, drugs and corruption are taking over this town. This is such a beautiful town and this is so sad to see. I moved back home from the states in 08 specifically to open a certain type of business but have put it off till I see what, if anything, is going to happen to Yarmouth to get a ferry back. No one will pay attention to us here in Yarmouth. The NDP couldn't care less about this town and the actions or should I say non action have proved that. We notice the NDP gets more money from the feds then they asked for, for a new convention center, what's up with that? We are losing way more in tourist dollars then if we were continuing to subsidize the ferry. What type of sense does that make? People are walking away from their homes because they can no longer afford to keep them, therefore the banks are repossesing them and these people are leaving their home towns they love dearly to go west for work. We give money to young girls to have babies instead of doing anything to teach them the joy of actually accomplishing something with their lives. It's becoming a career move at least in this area of Nova Scotia to have babies instead of going to work. What sort of sense does this make? People need to get back to work and there are many who want to. there are no jobs therefore become a burden to the gov't by going on welfare. And all this makes sense how?