A Day by the Sea Tour successful in its application to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board
By Tina Comeau
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) has approved an application by A Day by the Sea Tour Limited to run a sightseeing tour business that is also accompanied by a charter licence.
The company will be allowed to offer sightseeing tours in Yarmouth, Shelburne and Digby counties seven days a week during the operating season of the Nova Star ferry.
When it is not tied up with its tour services the company will also be allowed to offer charter services to any group within the tri-counties to any point within Nova Scotia.
The application had been the subject of a public hearing in January, where the charter portion of the application had been opposed by Tri-Star Charters Inc. and Hut’s Transit, who were both concerned that the addition of another charter carrier in Yarmouth would erode existing charter businesses.
The application by the tour company proposes to use up to two 24-36 passenger vehicles. Tri-Star Charters, which operates a motorcoach charter licence for a bus that can seat up to 58 people, raised concerns that a majority of the groups who have used their bus might opt instead for the smaller passenger coach because it would less expensive and in many cases more in line with the size of their group. During the late fall and winter the Yarmouth Mariners team receives first priority to the Tri-Star bus.
However the UARB has concluded that people in the Tri-County area want to have more semi-coaches options for charters, rather than only having access to a large highway motorcoach or being separated into vans.
Although Tri-Star Charters was opposed to the charter application by A Day by the Sea Tour Ltd., it says it was not opposed to giving people more options for charters and therefore has also applied to be allowed to purchase one or two 24-36 passenger coaches to address any needs that may arise in the community, including tourism tours if needed. It had offered to purchase and then lease such a vehicle to A Day by the Sea Tour to conduct its tour business, but Calvin d’Entremont, the operator of the tour business, flatly rejected that offer, saying he wanted control over his own vehicles. UARB chairwoman Dawna Ring agreed this makes the most sense.
“Sea wants to own the vehicles to have control over its business and the development of these sightseeing tours in the same way as Tri-Star wants to control its business,” she wrote in her 58-page decision. “In order for Sea to be able to grow the tourism business to meet the needs of the tourists . . . it needs the flexibility of using its own vehicles rather than being subject to only having access to them when Tri-Star (or other customers) is not using them.”
During the January hearing many witnesses, mostly from the tourism sector, spoke in support of the application of A Day by the Sea Tour Limited, pointing out that with the resumption of ferry service the sightseeing operation being proposed was very important from a tourism development standpoint.
“The success of this ferry service is of significant public interest for this area and the province,” noted Ring in her written decision. “Its success is dependent, in part, upon more and better tourism products being available, especially in the southwestern area. Concurrently, the development of these tourism products is also a significant public interest.”
D’Entremont began doing tours, similar to ones he is proposing now, back in 2002. But with the absence of ferry service over the years he eventually gave up the business.
Contrary to Tri-Star’s concerns, Ring writes in her decision that the UARB believes charters operated by d’Entremont’s company will not have a significant negative impact on other local carriers.
In any event, the UARB finds the importance of developing these tourism products “overrides any minor effect it may have on other carriers,” reads the decision.
As well, the UARB says in its decision that the forthcoming ferry service may generate new and more transportation demands for all local carriers, thereby reducing their dependency on revenues from existing charter customers.
But in the end it really came down to choice and options.
“Ultimately, in this case, if there is some impact on either of the opposing carriers it is slight in comparison to the public interests of people in the area having access to semi-coaches and most significantly, the importance of providing these tours and charter services for the success of this new ferry service and the thousands of passengers coming to the Yarmouth area,” writes Ring.
“The Board understands Tri-Star, as a large multi-national corporation, can perform and operate every vehicle and service for the community, including providing Acadian culture tours,” she adds. “The fact that Tri-Star can, does not mean Sea should not.”