Cars line up at the ferry terminal in Yarmouth to cross on Nova Star. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
There is concern that Yarmouth is still missing the boat when it comes to being a tourist town.
Despite signs seen around town proclaiming, ‘When our ship comes in, we’ll be ready,’ there was discussion around the town council table that more needs to be done to ensure the town is catering to visitors who are arriving and departing on Nova Star.
There are businesses that have adjusted their hours. But rather than a town that is hopping, there are still shops and restaurants closing early in the evenings and on weekends, removing options for visitors in the area. The mayor and councillors said they have received emails from disappointed visitors and they’ve also been told by people working in the accommodations sector that they’ve fielded complaints from visitors about things shutting down early.
Yarmouth town council is hoping that collectively everyone can work together so things are different next season.
A motion has been approved for the town to host an open community meeting in early October with the goal of examining hours of operation and exploring other means of making Yarmouth a tourist town in the evenings and on weekends. Key players at this meeting would include the town, the Chamber of Commerce, YASTA, merchants, entertainment facilities, restaurants, museums, etc.
Despite a lot of effort in recent months that’s gone into getting the town ready for the ferry service, “We’re not really a tourist town yet,” said Councillor Ken Langille, who made the motion.
It was recognized during the discussion at council’s Aug. 14 meeting that it can be a hardship for businesses to extend their hours. There are a lot of stores that have small staffs and to extend business hours makes for a long day. Plus not everyone can afford to hire extra staff.
But the intention of the meeting is to get people talking, said Langille, and to see if there are ways everyone can work together. He said it may involve getting innovative. One suggestion thrown out was perhaps exploring tax-free shopping zones in Yarmouth during the summer season.
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Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood, who recently made another trip on Nova Star, recounted being in Kennebunkport, Maine on a Sunday evening where she watched people lining up to get into businesses. She’d love to see the same thing happening here.
“It’s not their fault, there are reasons they can’t open,” she said about businesses that close early on evenings and weekends. “To make it easier (for them) is what we need to do.”
The town is hoping upcoming initiatives in the downtown including a façade program and other improvement projects will encourage business and development in the downtown, which is the first and last impression of Yarmouth people have when they’re coming off or going onto the boat.
Deputy Mayor Jim MacLeod is hopeful this will happen but he also notes there is a lot of linear feet that is unoccupied space, “So when you are open, sometimes you feel alone on the street,” he said.
Mayor Mood believes Yarmouth can turn the tide and become more of a tourist town.
“We have everything it takes, we’ve got the people, we’ve got the basics, we’ve got the buildings,” she said, adding as numbers increase on the ferry she hopes people will have more courage to step up and stay open.
“Not only existing businesses but also new businesses,” she said. “Because the money that people want to drop in this community is driving right out.”
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