Yarmouth still missing the boat on being a tourist town, says council

Tina Comeau
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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.

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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Organizations: Yarmouth town council, Chamber of Commerce

Geographic location: Yarmouth, Nova Star, Kennebunk, Maine

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Recent comments

  • Mike deveau
    August 20, 2014 - 00:43

    I was very surprised this year takeing the new ferry to visit family in yarmouth. First of all there are issues with the boat, where are the Canadian people working on the boat that is costing us millions . A lot of the serving staff on the boat are very unpleasant people and I witnessed several incidents where they tried to keep your change even after the receipts have a gratuity all ready included in the bill. I also think $18 for a buffet breakfast is unbelieve able do they think there are serving eggs Benedict with champane. No gift shop ? And Portland could care less they don't need this ferry maybe Barharbour would have been a better fit. Then what is there to get people to stop comeing off the boat, ? Nothing why not some pipers or some kind of entertainment to get visitors attention . Also on the stat holiday in August the restaurant s on water st. were closed wow you sure are missing the boat as they say. Hope you open your eyes and ears and make some much needed changes because it is a very nice boat and it does save a lot of driving if your comeing from ontario.

  • James Ready
    James Ready
    August 17, 2014 - 16:41

    Well Said Margot, Indeed, we have plenty of big talkers on this council but none that are capable of being the true leaders that we need. As an old Sea Captain once told me, "Well done is better than well said". When some of the town councilors get on CJLS they talk so long that the DJ goes over his time limit. Who on this council can truly put their shoulder to the wheel and get money from Halifax and Ottawa? As I recall, when good ol' Tick and Cliff were at the helm the grease kept a flowing between the political parties and Yarmouth had a voice on council that would HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE. Long story short, in Yarmouth, outside of the fishery, we are swamped by government fed businesses and this spoon fed mentality of not understanding what we are and what we aren't is what is holding us back. People are just to comfortable with the way it is because heck, nobody likes change do they..? Again, until the voters of the town of Yarmouth begin to recognize that those that are good at talking and motivational speeches aren't necessarily those who you want at the helm during a storm. Anybody can man the helm when its calm, but the true salts show themselves when the weather is rough. Obviously, this new brand of council we have does not appear to have much of the salt required to tell people what they need to hear and not, "What they want to hear". Here's my solution, "WELCOME TO YARMOUTH, DUTY AND TAX FREE ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, JEWELRY and COSMETICS Capital of the Maritimes" Then, you would see plenty of tourists spending their time and money here. But alas, this is Nova Scotia and the old ways of doing business will never allow that.

  • John levac
    August 15, 2014 - 18:29

    Maybe Councilor Macisaac can set up a space book page.

    • Marge Saulnier
      August 17, 2014 - 05:02

      John sometimes people mispeak. There are people out there who make mistakes, something you likely have trouble relating to. Maybe you should run for council John, you seem to have all the right anwsers.

  • Cheryl Burchell
    August 15, 2014 - 17:49

    Summer students would probably jump at the chance of more employment. Downtown businesses could hire them for the evenings OR possibly the afternoons, affording business owners the luxury of having summer afternoons off themselves.

  • davem
    August 15, 2014 - 10:24

    We should have spent money on improving the town FIRST then let the ferry come. Think of it like this: when you invite friends over to your house, you clean up first, make your home feel warm, make sure the guests are entertained, well fed so when they leave..they leave with a smile and come back again. You don't leave your place in a mess..invite a bunch of drunks to drop in..you don't kick them out at 6 pm with nothing to do... And that's what we should have done. Instead, tourists ARE stopping in Ytown, alright. Long enough to read a map and high tail it out of here to Digby, Halifax, etc..

  • Margot Bosley
    August 15, 2014 - 08:06

    I must also say your AGNS is really a gem! Was one of the highlights.

  • Margot Bosley
    August 15, 2014 - 07:59

    People come to Nova Scotia for the scenery and adventure. We consider ourselves summer tourists and live in Halifax but travel a lot during summer months all aroudn Nova Scotia to keep our dollars here in the province we love. Throughout the day we are at the beach and exploring. Muesumes, trails etc. Main St Yarmouth is a ghost town after 5pm. We wanted to shop before supper and most everything was closing up. And weekends is even worse. It is quite sad. I was visiting Yarmouth and tried to get a coffee at 730am and NOTHING was open, we walked down from our beautiful B&B and were surprised by this?? Not even the sips shop or bakery...that is a first for me and my family travels NS extensive every summer. Maybe if the town made the land lords of Main St spruce up their buildings it would at least make an aesthetic difference that would be more welcoming. I found a lot of store fronts look tired and certainly were not painted or repaird in time for your first summer of boat visitors in 7 years..surprised on this one. Old World Bakery is a beautiful new spot and Shack Wacky, what a character. My uncle told us it is the same 3 or 4 guys who own all the ones that need most work and have for years; how sad. Also everyone knows the business tax rate is very high in your town. Hard to give a chance for new business frankly. My friend from Chester was going to open a business this summer in Yarmouth in April for the boat traffic, he couldn't even think to after costs for rent etc came in. How is anyone supposed to be able to open a small business down town when some of those spaces have rent that compares with Spring Garden Rd in Halifax. Up to $3000 a month for rent on Main st. What a shame... It speaks loud when a turnkey restaurant/lounge with three rental units is unsellable at $70,000....I remeber that place was a tough crowd when we used to go but it was good food and cold beer. Exactly what visitors want...It was very strange to us that it is not open for summe.r Such a great location in the middle of your super town! The town had plans months ago; we read in the paper about your hands on the deck meeting, seems none have been followed through with and your council is really good at talking and coming up with ideas and having these meetings where everyone in town goes. You even have groups of citzens doing the work you pay your public workers to do...odd..where are all the out crops on Main st? Where is the new nice signage for business to make them more attractive?? Why does the town continue to allow corporate clients on Main st?? I think this is one of your biggest problems. No retail on Main st means no shoppers on Main st. No shopping on Main street means no one stays for anything other than a meal. I was amazed to see my old favorite tourist store closed into an RBC now. That building had such charm and character and now it is so boring and bland, wow. Too bad the history society did not step in. And wonderful old Mr Leonards closed up tight. What are we tourists going to do on Main st?? Buy a house? Get insurance? See a physiotherapist?? Main street has lost 50% of it's retail from 10 years ago seems like to me. if this does not change and quick it is doomed. Go have a walk around Water street...how user friendly are the side walks? Let me tell you, they are not..We had to walk single file.no signs. only one or two buildings good for tourists...and let me tell you something else, you need to do something about the drunks on Water street in front of your Yarmouth Pub..please 2pm and drunks smoking and swearing..we didn;t go back on Water Street after this. Like i said you.keep having all the community meetings you want, but until the owners of these businesses are held accountable and the town actually steps up and spends some money beautifying Main and Water st Yarmouth will just be and remain as the end of the line...entry and exit point..Land'sEnd as the Mic Mac named it. We stop for lunch there now on the way through to either Digby or Shelburne depending which shore we take from the city. Good luck. you need all of it you can get. I hope things will come around soon. Used to be such a lovely vibrant Main st. PS. Loitering seems to be a problem on Main St as well.

    • Abe Sherman
      August 19, 2014 - 05:58

      The loitering is a problem I have spoken of for years to no avail. There is an element of hoodlums in Yarmouth who choose to do nothing with their life but stand around on street corners intimidating passers by. This has to change for Yarmouth to gain a reputation as a tourist friendly destination. And I agree that the council is really good at talking and doing nothing. They have been aware of this problem for years.

    • Laura Pitman
      August 28, 2014 - 20:17

      Well said Margot !!!