New Brunswick has a certain appeal and charm that other jurisdictions can’t compete with says the province’s minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture.
And John Ames, the MLA for Charlotte-Campobello, said this year’s tourism numbers support that claim.
“There’s been a lot of indicators we’ve had a great season,” said Ames, noting the occupancy rate at the province’s campgrounds was up nine per cent over 2014 numbers and the number of Americans visiting the province and staying one or more nights has increased by 10 per cent over last year’s figures.
Ames, who was sworn in as minister on June 6, said figures also show visitor numbers to Hopewell Rocks this year are up 15 per cent over last year and up 43 per cent over the last two years. Locally, Kingsbrae Garden in Saint Andrews and Roosevelt International Park on Campobello Island, both saw an increase of 17 per cent in visitor numbers over last year’s attendance figures he said
Abby Pond, director of the Charlotte Coastal Region Tourism Association (CCRTA), described the province as a whole as having a “fantastic year.”
“And our region was no exception,” she stated, noting the overall hotel occupancy rate for the Fundy Coastal Region was up eight per cent over the same time last year (to the end of August.) Pond said the association is still compiling tourism numbers for the season, but that many tourism operators in the region saw growth over 2014, which had been the best year for tourism in the region since 2008.
Pond said one of the indicators by which the CCRTA measures the success of tourism is through the voluntary contributions to its Destination Marketing Fund (DMF). As of the end of October this year, the contributions were up 30 per cent from 2015.
The CCRTA has 11 properties in the region participating in the DMF program. At each, a two per cent voluntary levy is added to each hotel room night and sent to the CCRTA.
The funds are used to provide grants to events and festivals throughout the region. Pond said in 2015, a record year, the CCRTA contributed $32,500 to festivals and events and to market the region elsewhere.
“It is money that comes from outside our region that we can spend to attract even more people in, who in turn contribute, allowing us to build even better events, festivals, and support our tourism businesses.,” explained Pond.
“We are blessed with fantastic natural resources and a great tourism infrastructure base in our region and are working to build it into a year-round tourism destination. “
She said the CCRTA is not only seeing an upswing in tourism activity during the traditional “high season” of July and August, but in increasing tourism visits earlier in the spring and later into the fall.
“September and October were exceptionally busy for our tourism operators.”
Ames agrees the tourism season in New Brunswick isn’t limited to summer.
“We’re a four season destination no question,” he said. “But we need to continue to extend tourism into the shorter seasons, for operators to push four season destination.”
He said tourism operators and the government both need to keep an eye on the dollars and cents tourism potentially could bring to New Brunswick. “Right now every dollar we invest we get a return of $3.20. That’s quite significant.”
Ames said the government wants to continue to partner with those in the tourism industry, adding the province is looking to further increase tourism numbers with strategies it is already working on, particularly in the area of food tourism.
The important things, said Ames, is to create experiences tourists want to repeat when they return, which encourage them to stay longer and bring friends and family.
He said the good weather this season added to the allure of the province, affording many opportunities for visitors to enjoy what Ames called “the authentic New Brunswick,” a place to travel to and enjoy, to sit back and relax and enjoy nature.
“People like the way they are treated. They think we’re really good hosts here in New Brunswick,” stated Ames.