Tourism op­er­a­tors an­tic­i­pat­ing busy 2017 sea­son

Vis­i­tors ex­pect­ing unique ex­pe­ri­ences and a per­sonal touch

The Beacon (Gander) - - News -

Tourism op­er­a­tors on the north­east coast are pre­dict­ing a great sea­son in 2017 as more vis­i­tors look to New­found­land and Labrador as a place to ex­pect the un­ex­pected.

Ho­tels and inns are steadily book­ing vis­i­tors for an ex­tended tourism sea­son. So far, num­bers are im­pres­sive, says Ad­ven­ture Cen­tral chair­man Wayne Hal­lett.

“Ev­ery­one I speak to is sig­nif­i­cantly ahead of last year – and last year we had a phe­nom­e­nal sea­son,” said Hal­lett, owner/op­er­a­tor of The Prints of Whales Inn in San­dring­ham. “Peo­ple are com­ing in ear­lier and stay­ing later, so our num­bers are up sig­nif­i­cantly.”

The Twill­ingate-New World Is­lands area con­tin­ues to ap­peal to vis­i­tors, said Deb­o­rah Bour­den, owner of the An­chor Inn Ho­tel and Al­pha­bet Fleet Inn in Twill­ingate. She said book­ings are fol­low­ing a fiveyear trend of vis­i­tors ar­riv­ing ear­lier in May, and ex­tend­ing their travel into Oc­to­ber.

At­ten­tion from the Broad­way play “Come From Away”, the story of New­found­lan­ders’ hos­pi­tal­ity to thou­sands of stranded pas­sen­gers in the Gan­der-Lewis­porte area dur­ing 9/11, has great po­ten­tial to at­tract vis­i­tors to the prov­ince.

“We are hop­ing that ‘Come from Away’ will in­crease travel to cen­tral New­found­land, but we can as­sume that it to be a big­ger fac­tor in 2018, con­sid­er­ing the play has just hit Broad­way,” said Bour­den.

Ice­bergs con­tinue to at­tract tourists, and the In­ter­na­tional Ice Pa­trol’s pre­dic­tions of an early crop of hun­dreds of ice­bergs this sea­son is wel­come news for tourism op­er­a­tors lo­cated in the heart of Ice­berg Al­ley.

Even so, Bour­den has no­ticed tourists have much more than ice­bergs on their agen­das.

“In­creas­ingly, we see ac­tive trav­ellers of all ages who ex­plore ‘bucket list’ items,” she said. “This is an off-the-beat­en­path desti­na­tion that prom­ises ad­ven­ture and new things to dis­cover.”

Trav­ellers are pur­su­ing a range of in­ter­ests, from ex­plor­ing lo­cal his­tory and cul­ture, to find­ing in­spi­ra­tion for photography and film­mak­ing projects in the area’s scenic beauty. Lo­cal fes­ti­vals, such as the Un­scripted Twill­ingate Dig­i­tal Arts Fes­ti­val held in Septem­ber, are at­tract­ing peo­ple look­ing for a unique ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Vis­i­tors want to get to know us,” said Bour­den. “They en­joy in­ter­act­ing and hear­ing sto­ries of who we are, about our cul­ture, her­itage and our way of life.”

Ac­cord­ing to Hal­lett, of­fer­ing the per­sonal con­nec­tion vis­i­tors seek is “the key to it all.”

“Tourism will grow as long as we de­liver on what peo­ple ex­pect,” he said. “Most guests are look­ing for nat­u­ral and cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences here – they will hike the trails, go out look­ing for whales and ea­gles, or come to see ice­bergs. But if they make con­tact with peo­ple who wel­come them, they will talk about that per­sonal con­tact be­fore they even think about the wildlife they saw.”

Most of Hal­lett’s guests come from cen­tral Canada and the United States, with Eu­ro­pean vis­i­tors hail­ing mainly from The Nether­lands, Ger­many and the United King­dom. This year, guests are booked from China, Ro­ma­nia and Switzer­land. In Twill­ingate, vis­i­tors also come from all over, es­pe­cially North Amer­ica, but Bour­den said num­bers from western Europe are par­tic­u­larly strong.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MATTHEW MUR­PHY

Tourism op­er­a­tors are hope­ful that the suc­cess of Broad­way play “Come From Away” will in­crease travel to the prov­ince in 2018.

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