Phaedra Charlton-Huskins, economic development officer with the Region of Queens, was in council on Nov. 15, reporting on the tourism statistics for the county. While the numbers have been consistently slightly up provincially, Queens County saw a decline in their numbers over last year. Charlton-Huskins says the numbers dropped from 24,035 to 20,395, about a 15 per cent decrease.
Almost a quarter of those losses were travelers from New England, which decreased by 61 per cent from 1,400 to 558.
The Region collects the numbers of people visiting and where they are from using signatures in the guest books at the North Queens Visitor Information Centre, the Liverpool Visitor Information Centre and Fort Point Lighthouse.
Charlton-Huskins said the numbers reflected a year that was not expected to be good, though it was predicted to be worse. She said the CAT certainly made an impact on tourism, and probably contributes to most of the loss from New England. However there were other factors as well that can be considered overall, including an economy on the mend, the strong Canadian dollar and people choosing to travel closer to home.
There were some good signs however. The number of people travelling from Europe increased, as well as the number of people from Nova Scotia travelling. RV travel and campground stays were also significantly up.
Of the three visitor information centres, Caledonia was the only one to see a slight increase in their numbers. The increase is attributed to more people taking the Digby ferry crossing to get to Southwest Nova Scotia.
There have been signs of a renewed ferry service in Yarmouth over the past few months, which could bring good news to the tourism sector. In August, it was announced control over the ferry terminal would go to the Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission. Several companies have also expressed interest in bringing back the link.
Charlton-Huskins said however the ferry wouldn’t solve everything.
“It’s not just as simple as when the ferry comes back everything will be alright.”
Mayor John Leefe echoed this statement.
“We would have to go back and reenter the market, which has undoubtedly been filled by some extend in other areas,” he said.
Charlton-Huskins said even with the link, the nature of tourism is changing. Tourists are looking more for the “experience”, rather than just a nice place to visit. The Region is already taking proactive steps towards promoting Queens County however. Ads have been placed at the two remaining ferry links in Nova Scotia, both in the terminals and on the ferry’s tourism displays.
“The challenge lies is now pulling (tourists) down to Southwest Nova,” she said.
Overall, Nova Scotia saw a two percent gain in tourists this year, totaling 1.7 million.