Com­ing to Cape Bre­ton

Af­ter good year for tourism, 2017 ex­pected to fol­low suit

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH PAT­TER­SON

An­gelo Spinaz­zola has been run­ning North River Kayak Tours for 24 years but it hasn’t been un­til the past year that he de­cided to move his busi­ness into an­other di­rec­tion with his lat­est ven­ture, River Nest Wilder­ness Cabins.

If the prov­ince’s lat­est tourism sta­tis­tics are any in­di­ca­tion, his tim­ing is im­pec­ca­ble.

On Fri­day, the prov­ince an­nounced that 2.2 mil­lion vis­i­tors came to Nova Sco­tia last year, an eight per cent in­crease from the pre­vi­ous year. Most im­por­tantly to Spinaz­zola, Cape Bre­ton saw the largest in­crease in room nights sold, up 16 per cent from 2015. In com­par­i­son, the prov­ince saw its to­tal growth in room nights up four per cent from 2015.

“Last year was prob­a­bly one of the best years that I’ve seen in a good — I don’t re­mem­ber the ex­act year but I’d say the best year in a good 12 years,” said Spinaz­zola, who of­fers kayak tours around Cape Bre­ton from his home base in North River, em­ploy­ing five peo­ple dur­ing the sea­son. “For us, any­way. It just ex­ceeded ev­ery­thing.

“I just felt the tim­ing was right for the River Nest Wilder­ness cabins.”

The cabins are slated to open in May and while book­ings have been slow, Spinaz­zola says his busi­ness hasn’t re­ally been pro­moted yet ei­ther.

“No­body knows who I am — I’m only get­ting my ad­ver­tis­ing mech­a­nisms out right now,” he says, adding he’s hear­ing ad­vanced book­ing are strong for other op­er­a­tors this year. “Their book­ings are high. And that’s an in­di­ca­tor when they over­flow that they’ll be com­ing to me.”

Mary Tulle of Desti­na­tion Cape Bre­ton is con­fi­dent that Spinaz­zola and other Cape Bre­ton ac­com­mo­da­tion sell­ers will ex­pe­ri­ence a good year in 2017.

“Op­er­a­tors are giv­ing us a very pos­i­tive in­di­ca­tion that their num­bers of pre-book­ing and ad­vance book­ing are cer­tainly on-par and in many cases higher than what they were last year so that’s all pos­i­tive.”

Kelli MacDon­ald, act­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for Tourism Nova Sco­tia, says the 16 per cent in­crease in room nights sold com­bines lo­cal travel along with those vis­it­ing from out of prov­ince. Across the prov­ince (fig­ures for in­di­vid­ual re­gions weren’t avail­able), it has re­sulted in 2.6 mil­lion room nights sold in 2016.

“In the peak months of tourism from June un­til fall, the oc­cu­pancy rate was re­ally high in Cape Bre­ton in 2016 — 89 per cent I be­lieve was in Septem­ber, and that’s very high,” said MacDon­ald.

Tulle be­lieves the over­all pro­vin­cial in­crease is a re­sult of Cape Bre­ton’s grow­ing num­bers.

“We know that there’s a strong mar­ket al­ways for those who come to visit fam­ily and rel­a­tives but for pure tourists, we had an ex­cep­tion­ally strong year that was cer­tainly felt is­land wide and yes to a de­gree, prov­ince wide,” said Tulle. “I think num­bers speak vol­umes and I think that you can’t dis­pute a 16 per cent in­crease in room nights sold as be­ing sig­nif­i­cant when the prov­ince over­all is 4 per cent or if you were to take us out of that mix, and we want to point out main­land Nova Sco­tia ver­sus Cape Bre­ton Is­land, I think it’s maybe around 2 per cent to 2 and a half per cent room nights sold over­all com­pared to our dou­ble dig­its.”

Tulle says she be­lieves the years of pro­mot­ing the is­land are pay­ing off and the up­com­ing Canada 150 cel­e­bra­tions shouldn’t hurt ei­ther.

“We’re cer­tainly op­ti­mistic about this past year as be­ing our base year as we go for­ward.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO/JAY RAWDING

An­gelo Spinaz­zola has been run­ning North River Kayak Tours for 24 years and has only now de­cided to go into the ac­com­mo­da­tion busi­ness. He’s ex­pect­ing a good year, es­pe­cially in light of re­cent sta­tis­tics on room nights sold.

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