We’ve been saying for years that the future economic growth and prosperity of Nova Scotia rests largely in how effectively we can develop the province’s tourism industry and recent information released by Tourism Nova Scotia confirms this belief.
According to those details released in late April, 2018 last year was Nova Scotia’s best tourism revenue year on record despite a modest decline in visitation. Tourism revenues reached an estimated $2.61 billion, a 0.3 per cent increase, compared to updated 2017 revenue estimates of $2.60 billion.
About 2,413,000 non-resident overnight visitors came to Nova Scotia in 2018. This represented just 0.8 per cent or 19,500 fewer visitors than in 2017, which saw the highest visitation in Nova Scotia’s history. Visitation numbers have increased by 27 per cent or 500,000 more visitors compared with 2013.
Highlights from 2018, compared to 2017 include:
An increase in air visitors, making 2018 the third consecutive year of growth in visitation by air. According to Tourism Nova Scotia, air visitors are higher spending visitors than visitors who arrive by other modes of transportation.
Visitation by road decreased three per cent, or by 49,900 visitors.
Visitation from overseas markets grew 15 per cent, or by 13,900 visitors, which marked the fifth straight year of growth in visitation from overseas markets, according to Tourism Nova Scotia.
Licensed room nights sold across the province reached 2.8 million, an increase of one per cent.
Room nights booked through a sharing economy platform, including both licensed and unlicensed accommodations, reached approximately 426,000, an increase of 85 per cent.
Officials in the tourism industry say they are working hard to reach $4 billion in tourism revenues by the year 2024, a goal identified by the Ivany Commission in 2014.
Michele Saran, CEO of Tourism Nova Scotia, said in a recent release, “To put it simply, we need to attract higher spending out-of-region visitors to achieve the $4-billion goal. That’s the focus of our tourism growth strategy and these results show we're on the right track.”
Geoff MacLellan, Provincial Minister of Business, said in the same release, “These results reflect the fantastic work our entire tourism industry is doing to offer experiences that appeal to travellers. As a result, people are coming from farther away and spending more money in our communities.”
Tourism Nova Scotia says it has identified strategic game changing opportunities that Nova Scotians will need to embrace to reach $4-billion in tourism revenues. Those opportunities include improving the supply and quality of accommodations, increasing air capacity from key markets, attracting more visitors from China, addressing labour challenges, extending the tourism season and continued strategic marketing.
This steady growth in the tourism industry provides exciting opportunities for communities in regions like the South Shore that have so much to offer and while we have seen a positive trend in recent years, there is more we can do.
For starters, all levels of government must work to improve infrastructure, especially our roads. It may be no surprise or perhaps it’s just a coincidence that visitation by road decreased three per cent in 2018. As pointed out above in the statistics from Tourism Nova Scotia, that decrease translates to 49,900 fewer visitors coming to the province by vehicle.
There are likely several factors for this including the high costs of fuels and people choosing easier and quicker modes of transportation to get to the province than by vehicle, but it could also be that the condition of our roads have contributed to the slide in numbers.
It’s true that Nova Scotia isn’t the only province with bad roads, but that doesn’t excuse the current state of our roads and highways. Anyone who travels the roads in Nova Scotia will agree they are in deplorable state and if we are going to grow our tourism industry then addressing this issue must be a top priority.
There other infrastructure improvements that can be undertaken to improve conditions for vehicular visitors such as improved road signage directing tourists to places of interests and services. We could also improve the number of roadside pull off rest areas and strategically placed washroom facilities.
Nothing would say welcome more than improved access to a bathroom and I do believe just improved conditions would a positive step in attracting more vehicular traffic.
There is also work that needs to be done at the grassroots level. When it comes to the tourism industry, we can all make a concerted effort to make all visitors feel welcome. This province is already known for its warm and friendly personality and the one thing that every Nova Scotian has control over is his or her attitude. How we treat people says a lot about us and will add to the visitor experience.
If you want to make a positive contribution to the industry then, always be friendly and helpful to our visitors. Become an ambassador and make every visitor feel special. Your thoughtfulness and caring will pay dividends in the end. If a tourist has a positive experience while they are here not only will they want to return, but they will also tell others and we all know that there is no better form of promotion than word of mouth.
Every community here in the South Shore has a tremendous opportunity to build and expand its local tourism industry. We have seen growth in this area in recent years, but these opportunities can be developed into economic drivers that will replace many of the traditional resource-based industries that have fallen onto hard time for lots of reasons that we don’t have the space to discuss here.
As these recent numbers prove, we know visitors are coming to Nova Scotia which means opportunities await us through our heritage, history, culture and traditions. As communities, we must come together to identify potential areas we can tap into. We must be creative and innovative and above all, we must be supportive of each other for these opportunities will happen if we work together.
It doesn’t matter which part of Nova Scotia you live and work, tourism holds the key to a prosperous future and that’s the view from here.
Vernon Oickle was born and raised in Liverpool where he continues to reside with his family. He has worked for more than 30 years in community newspapers on the South Shore and is the author of 28 books.