‘It’s where the tourists stop first’

MLA wor­ries about Cape Bre­ton gate­way’s fu­ture

Cape Breton Post - - NEWS | CAPE BRETON - BY NANC Y KING nk­ing@cb­post.com

The MLA for Sydney-Mira-Louis­bourg is rais­ing the alarm over con­cerns that the gate­way to Cape Bre­ton Is­land may be un­manned come next tourism sea­son.

In the provin­cial leg­is­la­ture this week, PC MLA Al­fie MacLeod asked Tourism Min­is­ter Mark Furey whether the Stephen McNeil Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is clos­ing provin­cial vis­i­tor in­for­ma­tion cen­tres in Port Hast­ings, Yar­mouth and Amherst.

The Port Hast­ings cen­tre is lo­cated im­me­di­ately af­ter cross­ing onto Cape Bre­ton af­ter cross­ing the Canso Cause­way and its staff, through the per­sonal touch that they can of­fer, are really am­bas­sadors for the is­land, MacLeod be­lieves.

“(VICs) give you the real story of the com­mu­nity,” he said in a phone in­ter­view from Hal­i­fax. “The one in Port Hast­ings, you think about it, we’re go­ing to be talk­ing about the Cabot Trail, we’re go­ing to be talk­ing about

“Th­ese are jobs in the lo­cal area that are im­por­tant to the lo­cal econ­omy, which have a big im­pact over­all to the lo­cal econ­omy.” Al­fie MacLeod PC MLA for Sydney-Mira-Louis­bourg

the Bell Mu­seum, the Fortress of Louis­bourg, the Min­ers’ Mu­seum . . . If you talk to a Cape Bre­toner who is work­ing in a VIC, you’re go­ing to get some real fresh hos­pi­tal­ity, a hint on to­day there’s fiddle mu­sic at St. Mike’s Hall in Baddeck, you’d have a great time if you want to go there and see what’s go­ing on.”

In the leg­is­la­ture, MacLeod noted the prov­ince’s tourism in­dus­try gen­er­ates $2.34 bil­lion in rev­enue an­nu­ally. Furey re­ferred to an ob­jec­tive to dou­ble rev­enues over the next 10 years.

The min­is­ter said Tourism Nova Sco­tia has “en­gaged mul­ti­ple stake­hold­ers” in dis­cus­sions around fu­ture op­tions. He said those dis­cus­sions are with com­mu­ni­ties across the prov­ince and with all of the 51 vis­i­tor in­for­ma­tion cen­tres.

“We will con­tinue with those dis­cus­sions and that di­a­logue, and when there’s a de­ci­sion made, Mr. Speaker, we will com­mu­ni­cate it to all col­leagues in the house,” Furey said.

“I be­lieve the tech­ni­cal term for that is ‘gob­bledy­gook,’” MacLeod said. “By do­ing it that way, it sounds more like no to me.”

Many in the sec­tor have stressed the im­por­tance of cul­ti­vat­ing cul­tural and ex­pe­ri­en­tial tourism. MacLeod noted that by go­ing on­line or ac­cess­ing a kiosk, visi­tors won’t get the one-on-one feed­back from peo­ple with de­tailed knowl­edge on the full scope of what is avail­able lo­cally.

“Th­ese are jobs in the lo­cal area that are im­por­tant to the lo­cal econ­omy, which have a big im­pact over­all to the lo­cal econ­omy,” he said.

MacLeod noted the cen­tres in Pictou and Digby closed last year, and visi­tors to the provin­cial park in Why­co­co­magh are now served via a kiosk.

“When I go to a kiosk, I can’t say, ‘Well, where can I get a good meal around here, where can I see some scenery that’s not on the nor­mal track of ev­ery­thing?’” he said.

The in­vest­ment in the cen­tres ver­sus their re­turn to the Nova Sco­tia econ­omy is “a no-brainer,” MacLeod added.

Dwayne MacDonald, an In­ver­ness County coun­cil­lor whose dis­trict in­cludes Port Hast­ings, said re­mov­ing staff from the Why­co­co­magh park has “ba­si­cally killed that park.”

“It’s the gate­way to Cape Bre­ton,” MacDonald said, of the Port Hast­ings cen­tre. “It’s where the tourists stop first when they’re com­ing on, so if they close that it would be just an­other short­sighted thing.”

MacDonald said it seems to be an­other ex­am­ple of some­one in an of­fice with­out first-hand knowl­edge of what goes on in the field making de­ci­sions about po­ten­tial cuts.

“It seems like a bunch of ac­tu­ar­ies in Hal­i­fax who have never been to this part of the prov­ince, I don’t think, who are sit­ting there cut­ting things not even re­motely con­sid­er­ing the out­come of what they’re do­ing,” he said.

“(Visi­tors) don’t want to come and see us, they want to live like us while they’re here, but if they don’t know how to get here or they don’t know where that cul­ture is, or where they’re go­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence that cul­ture, you can’t find that on­line.”

MacLeod

MacDonald

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