Cat ferry num­bers bode well for tourism, says An­napo­lis inn owner

Annapolis Valley Register - - NEWS - By Lawrence Pow­ell an­napolis­coun­tyspec­ta­tor.ca an­napo­lis royal

Early signs sug­gest it’s go­ing to be a good sea­son ahead for tourism op­er­a­tors in southwest Nova Sco­tia – and that’s on top of a cou­ple of the best years ever.

An An­napo­lis Royal inn owner says a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in ad­vance book­ings on the Cat ferry in Yar­mouth this year is a pos­i­tive in­di­ca­tor.

“I sus­pect it’s the re­sult of a com­bi­na­tion of Bay Fer­ries hav­ing a full year of in-mar­ket pro­mo­tion, both on their own and in part­ner­ship with oth­ers; tour op­er­a­tors hav­ing the con­fi­dence to use the Cat now that it is in op­er­a­tion and has a long-term com­mit­ment with the gov­ern­ment; and the in­creased in­ter­est we are see­ing from the USA to visit NS,” said Paul Stack­house, owner of Hills­dale House Inn.

“We took a snap­shot at the end of April and our ad­vance book­ings this year are up. I’m not go­ing to get into ab­so­lute num­bers, but they’re up roughly five-fold over last year,” said Mark Macdon­ald, pres­i­dent and CEO of Bay Fer­ries. He says higher June num­bers are at­trib­ut­able to the fact last year’s sea­son only started June 14. This year the Cat ferry starts its sec­ond sail­ing sea­son May 31.

The Cat

The Cat is a fast boat and Stack­house thinks that may be im­por­tant as well.

“Al­though I don’t have any ac­tual re­search, I re­call hear­ing that there was a greater in­ter­est in this type of ferry ver­sus the for­mer cruise ferry, as peo­ple sim­ply wanted to make the cross­ing more quickly and not have to spend the night on the boat,” Stack­house said. “I sus­pect this is hav­ing some pos­i­tive af­fect on book­ings as well.”

He said ac­cess is key for the tourism sec­tor.

“The more ways for peo­ple to get to NS the bet­ter,” he said. “That is why it’s also good to hear about the Elite flights com­ing soon from Port­land.”

The last few years have been good to peo­ple in his busi­ness - ev­ery­thing from the Cana­dian dol­lar, the price of gas, and now a travel ban to the United States that could see Euro­pean tourists head to Canada in­stead of the States where they might be re­fused en­try.

“Every­body we’ve talked to, the other innkeep­ers, all felt it’s been very pos­i­tive,” said Stack­house. “They’ve seen growth par­tic­u­larly in the last two years. I think there’s a lot of op­ti­mism for a change, that wasn’t there a few years ago.”

He said while there are a num­ber of fac­tors in­volved in the re­cent suc­cess, he be­lieves the new di­rec­tion the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has taken in cre­at­ing the Crown cor­po­ra­tion Tourism Nova Sco­tia and al­low­ing it to de­velop strate­gies and im­ple­ment mar­ket­ing plans for the prov­ince is hav­ing a pos­i­tive af­fect.

Rev­enues

Tourism rev­enues are es­ti­mated to be up from $2 bil­lion in 2010 to $2.6 bil­lion in 2016 and the goal is $4 bil­lion by 2024. The 2016 pro­vin­cial tax rev­enue is es­ti­mated at $168 mil­lion.

“Cer­tainly the di­rec­tion that Tourism Nova Sco­tia is tak­ing aligns with what all the re­search tells you will at­tract vis­i­tors,” he said.

He said the em­pha­sis on ex­pe­ri­en­tial tourism aligns with what the re­search is say­ing is what at­tracts peo­ple all over the world now.

“Peo­ple don’t want to go and see static dis­plays so much. They want to go and be­come part of it, and feel what it’s like to do it,” Stack­house said.

He said they are also very in­ter­ested in ex­pe­ri­enc­ing lo­cal food and bev­er­ages.

“And that’s some­thing cer­tainly Nova Sco­tia has come a long way in the last sev­eral years, ini­tially with the wine in­dus­try which has re­ally evolved and is gain­ing more and more recog­ni­tion,” he said. “Now you’re see­ing the craft brew­eries are pop­ping up ev­ery­where which are very pop­u­lar, par­tic­u­larly with that younger gen­er­a­tion and the dis­til­leries and other things.”

He said some of the ini­tia­tives Tourism Nova Sco­tia has un­der­taken in the last cou­ple of years are en­cour­ag­ing in­dus­try to de­velop new ex­pe­ri­ences that are aligned with the kind of vis­i­tors that stake­hold­ers are try­ing to bring to the prov­ince.

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Lawrence pow­ell

Paul Stack­house, along with part­ner Val Stack­house, own and op­er­ate Hills­dale House Inn in An­napo­lis Royal. The past two years have been good and the com­ing sea­son looks promis­ing as well, with ad­vance book­ings on the Cat ferry in Yar­mouth up five-fold over last year.

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