Darlene Grant Fiander, President, Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia — Photo Contributed
(Originally published in the May 2014 issue of the Nova Scotia Business Journal written by Darlene Grant Fiander who is the president of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia and executive director of the Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council)
Last month, I had the opportunity to tour the Nova Star and was extremely impressed with the quality of the ship and the opportunity that once again exists to attract visitors via this ferry route from the United States.
While very pleased to see the service resume, I could not help but think about the amount of energy and effort that has been expended trying to get a service back. It has been a tough journey, which has resulted in a tremendous amount of economic pain for many businesses across the province. In an effort to justify the decision to cancel the last subsidy for ferry service, we heard various numbers being bantered around. The reality was, that even in the last year of service, more than 76,000 passengers traveled on the CAT. Having a water highway to the lucrative U.S. market is an important piece of infrastructure for the province.
The decision to abruptly cancel support for a service that was such an economic generator highlights the lack of understanding of the importance of tourism’s export potential. Revenue earned outside the province being spent in Nova Scotia is pure profit for governments and the multiplier effect in communities cannot be matched. I do not want to belabor the point that a mistake was made, but we do need to get to a place whereby the governments of the day think twice about the tourism impact when they make these types of decisions.
Perhaps we will look back at this as a turning point in how tourism is viewed in the economy as the outcry from all regions of the province for three years was felt by governments at all levels, and by all parties.
With a new goal to grow the visitor economy to $4 billion a year, as suggested in the recently released “Now or Never Report”, we will need to ensure we have sustainable access points into the province; this includes all ferry routes, air, rail and roads. We can do all the marketing we want, but if we make it difficult and expensive to get here, people simply will not come.
Resumption of this service will not reverse the trends of tourism decline overnight. It is merely one part of the solution. We have a tremendous amount of work to do to rebuild our brand in the U.S., to improve the product and the experiences that we are offering to entice visitors to think about Nova Scotia as a destination choice.
Tourism works for Nova Scotia — let’s not forget again.