Tourists flocked to Red Bay in 2017

Vis­i­ta­tion at na­tional his­toric site over 12,000 this past sum­mer

Northern Pen - - EDITORIAL - BY STEPHEN ROBERTS

RED BAY, NL – The Red Bay Na­tional His­toric Site is cel­e­brat­ing its best year ever for tourist vis­i­ta­tion.

And there’s rea­son to be op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of the site as well.

Per a Parks Canada press re­lease, vis­i­tors from all over the world came to Red Bay, a UNESCO World Her­itage site, to learn about Basque whal­ing op­er­a­tions, which took place in Red Bay in the 16th and 17th cen­turies.

The site drew more than 12,000 vis­i­tors from June to Septem­ber 2017 for the very first time – 18 per cent in­crease from the pre­vi­ous year.

“It’s been a great year, and it was re­ally ex­cit­ing to sur­pass that 12,000-mark,” said Cindy Gib­bons, visi­tor ex­pe­ri­ence team leader at the site. “There was a lot of an­tic­i­pa­tion when we got down to the fi­nal few weeks and we re­al­ized we were close. Ev­ery­one was ex­cited that fi­nally, ‘we’ve got 12,000 peo­ple here.’”

She says there are a few rea­sons for the in­crease.

Firstly, gov­ern­ment of­fered free ad­mis­sion to na­tional parks, his­toric sites and marine con­ser­va­tion ar­eas this year as part of the Canada 150 pro­mo­tion.

Gib­bons says it was a cause for cel­e­bra­tion and they hosted a few events that drew peo­ple.

“Just the air of cel­e­bra­tion, over­all I think, across the coun­try was im­por­tant,” she said.

Their events in­cluded Na­tional Abo­rig­i­nal Day, which Gib­bons calls an op­por­tu­nity to show­case Labrador’s unique cul­ture; Canada Day, which she says at­tracts a lot of lo­cal peo­ple and gives them a chance to min­gle with vis­i­tors com­ing from away; and Parks Day, which marks the sig­nif­i­cance of Canada’s parks.

These are an­nual events. Se­condly, she says the Red Bay Na­tional His­toric Site has at­tracted more vis­i­tors since it was des­ig­nated a UNESCO World Her­itage Site in 2013.

Lastly, 2017 was the cen­te­nary of na­tional his­toric sites in Canada. The first na­tional his­toric site was es­tab­lished 100 years, and cel­e­bra­tions com­mem­o­rat­ing that event took place in Red Bay this sum­mer.

Gib­bons said Red Bay’s in­creased vis­i­ta­tion was a part of a trend across the en­tire coun­try.

“More Cana­di­ans and in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors are com­ing to our parks and sites than ever be­fore,” she said.

Based on its tra­jec­tory in re­cent years, Gib­bons be­lieves the site will at­tract more vis­i­tors in the fu­ture.

“We’re plan­ning for that,” she said.

Plans in­clude an in­fra­struc­ture project that will con­sol­i­date site op­er­a­tions. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has in­vested funds to com­bine the in­ter­pre­ta­tive fa­cil­i­ties.

“We have two in­ter­pre­ta­tive fa­cil­i­ties here – we have our wel­come cen­ter and a sep­a­rate in­ter­pre­ta­tion cen­ter – so (we’re) con­sol­i­dat­ing and ex­pand­ing our wel­come cen­ter to in­crease our ex­hibit ar­eas,” Gib­bons ex­plained. “That will help us bet­ter present the story of Red Bay and the world her­itage site.”

She adds the project will also de­crease the site’s en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print, and she’s hope­ful the changes will draw more peo­ple in.

“Hope­fully that’ll make our story bet­ter and more ap­peal­ing to peo­ple, and that will draw peo­ple here as well in the fu­ture,” she said.

This project is in the plan­ning phase.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The Red Bay Na­tional His­toric Site’s World Her­itage plaques over­look Saddle Is­land and the har­bour of Red Bay.

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