N.S. tourism industry wants locals to rediscover provincial attractions
GLACE BAY, N.S. -- Amid the lifestyle change the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about, Maritime businesses are in survival mode – especially those who rely on tourism dollars. With inter-provincial travel banned in many provinces, tourism operators are turning their focus to locals for support this season.
Cape Breton Island, marketed as 'Nova Scotia's Masterpiece,' attracts people from around the world to explore its beauty and rugged coastline. However, in summer 2020, tourism operators will be relying on patrons closer to home.
"Eighty-five per cent of our visitors come from off-island, so a large percentage of our visitors," says Cape Breton's Miners Museum executive director, Mary Pat Mombourquette.
Mombourquette says she's experiencing much uncertainty, but one thing is for sure – she won't have the financial boost from cruise ships. During such difficult times, she hopes the local community will consider rediscovering attractions in their own backyard.
"Whenever I ask an adult from Cape Breton, if they've ever been to the Cape Breton [Miners] Museum, They say 'I did it with my school trip,'" says Mombourquette. "These are people who are 40 and 50-years-old. Hopefully, they come back because we're not the same when they went to school."
Another tourism hot spot, Louisbourg, is one of many Parks Canada sites reliant on the tourism dollar. However, it will remain closed until at least May 31 – with future plans in the air.
"They're going to need whatever business can be driven to their operations," says Destination Cape Breton CEO, Terry Smith.
Smith notes the region sold nearly 440,000 room nights at hotels in 2019. However, with COVID-19 restrictions preventing those types of figures, his focus is currently on Nova Scotians.
"We think people are going to be happy to get out and explore around the island and the province," says Smith. "They can explore things they haven't done in years, or maybe haven't done ever."
Smith mentions a silver lining amid the economic losses is that Nova Scotians contribute about 38 per cent of all tourism revenues – just shy of a billion dollars a year. He says there is lots to explore in the great outdoors.
"Hiking, golfing, going to the beach, having a picnic – that will be there for people who want to get out of the house," says Smith.
Meanwhile, tourism operators await a season that will look much different from any other.