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Ferry delay impacting Yarmouth tourism stakeholders heavily

In total, the owner of the Lakelawn B&B and Motel has lost 844 room nights (as of July 5), due to ferry sailing delays.
In total, the owner of the Lakelawn B&B and Motel has lost 844 room nights (as of July 5), due to ferry sailing delays. - Carla Allen

Businesses left high and dry, millions of dollars lost due to disruption of service

YARMOUTH, N.S. —

CARLA ALLEN
Tri-County Vanguard

Although ferry service between Nova Scotia and Maine benefits the entire province, Yarmouth-area businesses depend on it the most and those businesses are hurting heavily.
Collectively, hundreds of thousands of dollars, more likely millions, has been lost through many avenues. 

Bay Ferries says it is refunding all sailings that have been booked on The Cat and it is no longer accepting new reservations for the 2019 sailing season until there is a definitive answer of when the ferry will sail.
Bay Ferries says it is refunding all sailings that have been booked on The Cat and it is no longer accepting new reservations for the 2019 sailing season until there is a definitive answer of when the ferry will sail. TINA COMEAU PHOTO


The owner of the Lakelawn B&B and Motel in Yarmouth says 80 per cent of his business has been cancelled so far. 
He says last winter he worked twice as hard to get early bookings because he was concerned about Bay Ferries’ move from Portland to Bar Harbor. 
“Because of the online trend, bookings are earlier,” he said. “By May or June you’re almost already done with your reservations. The biggest problems are the cancellations and refilling these rooms and the side effect of that is people are complaining about the cancellation fee.”

 The fallout has been a “nightmare” for him, resulting in some bad reviews on TripAdvisor, he says, where the hotel has been rated #1 of six establishments.  
“Just today alone I lost 72 room nights. In the last three hours the phone hasn’t stopped. In total I have lost 844 room nights (as of July 5). It’s just mushroomed from every angle. Last year was the best year, the best year ever,” he said. 
He adds the one thing that’s worse than not having a ferry is having a ferry that keeps cancelling two weeks before sailing.
During Seafest’s car show weekend hotels are traditionally booked solid; hardly any are this year.

Management at the Comfort Inn is concerned about next year if ferry service is disrupted. The visitors it could bring will be needed to fill the Colony Inn, as renovations are expected to be completed by then. A new Hilton Hotel with 82 rooms is also under construction on the Acadia First Nation’s Yarmouth Reserve.
Management at the Comfort Inn is concerned about next year if ferry service is disrupted. The visitors it could bring will be needed to fill the Colony Inn, as renovations are expected to be completed by then. A new Hilton Hotel with 82 rooms is also under construction on the Acadia First Nation’s Yarmouth Reserve.


Melissa Harris, assistant manager at Comfort Inn, says reservations are down at their establishment and there have been many cancellations related to the ferry service. 
“It’s frustrating. It’s not the season we thought we were going to have at all. No warning or anything.”
Staff hours have been pared back as a result. 
She’s concerned about next year, when the Rodd Colony Harbour Inn renovations will be completed and that motel will be back on stream, in addition to a new Hilton Hotel with 82 rooms that will be under construction on the Acadia First Nation’s Yarmouth Reserve. 

A new Hilton Hotel with 82 rooms will be under construction on the Acadia First Nation’s Yarmouth Reserve.
A new Hilton Hotel with 82 rooms will be under construction on the Acadia First Nation’s Yarmouth Reserve.


“Next year the number of rooms in Yarmouth will almost double. What happens in two years if that boat doesn’t cross?” 
Brian Rodney, owner of Best Western in Yarmouth, says they are feeling the impact of no ferry.  
“It’s actually devastating. We completely refurbished our property, the interior, with the idea that the boat was coming this year. We had a good year last year… now this has fallen flat on its face. It perhaps could have been handled a bit better in hindsight.” 

The Best Western in Yarmouth.
The Best Western in Yarmouth.

He isn’t the only one who invested in upgrades for his property.
The manager/owner of the Voyageur Motel says a lot of money was spent on the motel this year.
“I was anticipating a good income for the summer. Well, it’s not happening,” she said.
“We were booked solid and 300-400 cancelled in three months. We’re all in the same shoes.” 
When asked if she had any hope for next year she replied, “I would no longer be here if I had given up hope.” 

MacKinnon Cann Inn co-owner Neil Hisgen says he has had people express regret when calling to cancel but add, “Why would I come across on the Digby ferry and go south when we’re really heading up north?” Hisgen says many people “are taking the southern region out of the equation, even though it’s just an hour away.”
MacKinnon Cann Inn co-owner Neil Hisgen says he has had people express regret when calling to cancel but add, “Why would I come across on the Digby ferry and go south when we’re really heading up north?” Hisgen says many people “are taking the southern region out of the equation, even though it’s just an hour away.”


Neil Hisgen, who owns MacKinnon Cann Inn with Michael Tavares, says the situation is depressing. 
Because their booking policy is to take 50 per cent at the time of booking, to secure lodging, they’ve lost a lot of revenue because of cancelled reservations that had to be refunded back.  
“The banking system here is not kind to the tourism industry,” he said. 
There’s been no walk-in traffic and Hisgen says he’s never had that happen before.
Summer is when the money is made, the cash that helps operators through the shoulder seasons. 
Hisgen and Tavares own four large Victorian homes.
“We’re going to have to rethink on how we actually live here because of the heating costs and other things,” he said.
He says he has had people express regret when calling to cancel but add, “Why would I come across on the Digby ferry and go south when we’re really heading up north?”
“A lot of people are taking the southern region out of the equation, even though it’s just an hour away,” said Hisgen.
He also pointed out that revenue from people who would have been employed here for the summer in connection with the ferry has been lost. 
Dan Earle and Sue Hutchins own the Chebogue Cottage, an Airbnb with 118 positive reviews.
Earle says on the day the latest announcement of ferry delay was made, he lost two bookings.
“Our unit is heavily used by people coming in or leaving on the ferry. Many were U.S. tourists but people from Quebec and Ontario also cut through Maine to get here so we are losing them as well,” he said.
Although the couple still has bookings, most are people visiting friends/family in the Yarmouth area. 

A spokesperson for Yarmouth Petro-Canada says they are used to seeing many more trailers and motor homes. Their business is the last gas station before vehicles exit Yarmouth and take Highway 103.
A spokesperson for Yarmouth Petro-Canada says they are used to seeing many more trailers and motor homes. Their business is the last gas station before vehicles exit Yarmouth and take Highway 103.


The Yarmouth Petro-Canada is the last gas station before exiting Yarmouth to take Highway 103. Spokesperson Rayanne Robicheau says the delay in ferry service will definitely affect fuel sales.
A rental car agency in the area has had cancellations and they buy all their fuel from the station. "We’re used to seeing more trailers and motor homes too,” she said.
Some owner/operators are even considering leaving the area and moving further northeast, where businesses are reaping the benefits of a greater influx of tourists using Bay Ferries’ service between Digby and Saint John. 
Dawn Nickerson-Ramsey and Josh Ramsey have poured their life savings into their business, Wine & Beer Tours of Nova Scotia. Both love the area but say the delays in the ferry service are making them question if this is the best place for their business. 

Although the owners of Wine and Beer Tours of Nova Scotia both love the area they say the delays in the ferry service are making them question if this is the best place for their business.  Photo from Wine and Beer Tours of Nova Scotia Facebook Page
Although the owners of Wine and Beer Tours of Nova Scotia both love the area they say the delays in the ferry service are making them question if this is the best place for their business.  Photo from Wine and Beer Tours of Nova Scotia Facebook Page


“The deficits we see every month are impossible to overcome and we’ve been paying out of our pockets for months just to keep our business open,” said Ramsey. 
“We’ve been trying to utilize other ports of entry to attain patronage and are preparing to leave the area to test other markets.”
He says similar tour companies operating in the Annapolis Valley are sold out this summer while they have had less than a handful of tours as of July 15.  
“Needless to say, we’re very disappointed about the way this situation has been handled by all officials involved. We see many businesses are suffering because of the mistreatment.”
 He says the past couple of years the tourism industry was seen as on the rise, and this year it’s non-existent. They built their business over the past year expecting this would be the season they were going to see it make an impact, but instead they are struggling to figure out if they can even operate.  
“The confusing part of this situation is that we keep hearing about a push in the date of ferry operation, but we don’t hear about a hard plan being initiated or a confirmed date.  Our simplest wish is to know what is going on so that we can plan accordingly.”
 

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