Talk­ing tourism

Are out­ports be­ing left be­hind?

The Central Voice - - Front Page - Alex Har­rold Clearly Stated

New­found­land and Labrador tourism sure has come a long way in the last 35 years.

For starters, we rou­tinely have cruise ships com­ing in. Cruise ships! You know, those ti­tanic, mostly white, float­ing palaces of fine din­ing, bal­cony-rid­dled state­rooms, casi­nos and huge tips, mainly as­so­ci­ated with sail­ing the crys­tal blue wa­ters of the Caribbean or en­ter­ing the Strait of Gibral­tar into the Mediter­ranean, whose colour I wouldn’t know, see­ing as I’ve never been there.

Yep, if you live on the Avalon, you might think you were from Monte Carlo, or the south of France, or north­ern Italy; any­place other than an out­port in this prov­ince. As if we didn’t have enough things to dis­tin­guish we from dey, now we should add tourism to that list.

Oh, there has been a cruise ship or two come into Cor­ner Brook in re­cent sum­mers, but it’s more like a sym­pa­thy stop on their part rather than an op­por­tu­nity to open up the “wilds” of the is­land to any tourists rav­en­ous for that kind of ex­pe­ri­ence.

That’s not to say there isn’t a lot go­ing on out here. There truly is.

We have many choices among the com­mu­nity the­atre groups that show­case some of best tal­ent any­where. There are mu­sic fes­ti­vals and cel­e­bra­tions that run all sum­mer ev­ery­where that are mod­er­ately priced com­pared to the high level of en­ter­tain­ment they pro­vide, which also of­fer unique and some­times for­got­ten sto­ries of our his­tory to a larger au­di­ence. No, the prob­lem is not re­lated to what’s avail­able. The prob­lem is in get­ting here con­ve­niently and stay­ing here with­out spend­ing more time and money than the cost of two cruises.

Take fly­ing. For those of us out this way, that means Deer Lake Air­port.

The ter­mi­nal is beau­ti­ful, but fly­ing in and out of there is chal­leng­ing. There is a spe­cific chal­lenge if you have any kind of mo­bil­ity is­sue, be­cause about the only way they can load and un­load folks who can’t use stairs is by phys­i­cally car­ry­ing you. There is one ramp that fits one size plane, but car­ry­ing is the usual method. We now drive all the way to St. John’s in or­der to catch a flight. Fly­ers need­ing as­sis­tance seem not to bother fly­ing through Deer Lake as far as I can tell, an ob­ser­va­tion I passed on to air­port man­age­ment.

A more gen­eral prob­lem af­fect­ing all pas­sen­gers is flight times. There are more very early or very late flights than there are flights dur­ing ac­tual day­light hours. It’s a dif­fi­cult time at 5:30 a.m. to fly out if you have to leave home at 1:30 a.m. to be there in time. Flights that ar­rive at mid­night or later have the same dark-driv­ing is­sue, putting many peo­ple at risk who have to drive when they should be sleep­ing.

So, why drive? Why not stay at a ho­tel at ei­ther end, you ask? Costs.

The folks who drive those mid­dle-of-the-night hours may not be will­ing to pay $130-$150 a night for a ho­tel room in Deer Lake, and there’s some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for that de­ci­sion. It was after dark when the last flight we were on came into Deer Lake, so we stayed at a chain ho­tel that night for $139 per night. The cu­ri­ous thing was, be­fore we left Ed­mon­ton, we stayed at the same chain ho­tel the night be­fore for $109 per night. The re­sponse I got from the desk clerk when I in­quired as to why there was a $30 dif­fer­ence be­tween the same chain ho­tel 24 hours apart, was, “I don’t know, but we’re full all of the time.”

Good for them. Less so for you.

The sub­ject of us­ing the ferry never arose in the above nar­ra­tive. Folks who visit us from afar have given up on that op­tion.

At over $600 round trip for two peo­ple with a car and a cabin, the ferry is not a vi­able con­sid­er­a­tion. Friends and fam­ily that en­joyed com­ing to visit ev­ery year have opted in­stead to come ev­ery other year, or even less fre­quently. Some have suggested we should meet up on a yearly cruise, as op­posed to them mak­ing the trip to our out­port.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if we cruised into St. John’s to­gether, on some­thing we can af­ford? If we do that, it’s not likely our friends will be spend­ing many tourist dol­lars out this way. Ay, there’s the rub!

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