Tourism in Charlotte County sees slow start

Susan Hill photo Tourism in Charlotte County is off to a slow start this summer, however those in the industry expect the number of visitors to pick up. Whale watching in the Bay of Fundy is a big draw for tourists, with many returning for another glimpse.

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – High tourism season in Charlotte County has had a slow start in its first semi-regular year since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“It’s been a little slow starting,” said Susan Hill, executive director of Charlotte Coastal Region Tourism Association (CCRTA). “We were hoping for a consistent season.”

Though New Brunswick has had better luck with tourism than other provinces, due to the vast outdoor space and outdoor activities offered, the tourism isn’t comparable to a pre-COVID world just yet.

The province has been regarded as a safe province, according to Hill. She’s hopeful that their status as a safe place to travel will entice visitors.

“It’s looking like we will have lots (of tourists),” she said.

The popular tourist destination has much to offer, but with the rising cost of gas, Hill says tourists from across the county might be rethinking their travels.

The CCRTA had anticipated seeing primarily national travellers due to the prevailing difficulties with air travel.

“Right at this moment, everyone is aware how difficult air travel is,” said Hill.

The highest number of tourists in the province so far this summer have been travellers from the Atlantic provinces, though Hill says they’ve seen large numbers coming from Quebec and Ontario.

During a busy pre-COVID tourist season, Charlotte County saw a steady flow of travellers from France, Germany, and the U.K. While they aren’t quite seeing those numbers back to pre-COVID standings, Hill says, “Tourism NB has been doing a great job.”

While the season may be off to a slow start, the busiest month has only just begun. August is by far the county’s busiest month for tourism. Between the weather and it falling during the peak whale watching window, tourism always picks up in August, according to Hill. This year, the busiest month is showing promise.

“I’m hearing good things from accommodations. Because people love this area and develop a connection, they want to come back.”

Although tourists are set to visit, the lack of accommodations in the area makes it impossible for tourism to grow.

Charlotte County has established many new tourist attractions and activities in recent years, but accommodations haven’t managed to keep up with the demand. At present, there are limited spaces that can accommodate group stays. The Algonquin Resort receives a large sum of tourists since its accommodations allow for groups.

Services like Airbnb have popped up in the area more frequently, however, although such services are a great solution, they present another issue.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, workers within tourism fields have had no choice but to move on to other opportunities with secure jobs, leaving significant gaps in the workforce.

Even finding cleaning services for accommodations like Airbnb is a challenge, according to Hill.

“So many people have moved to something different,” she said.

Charlotte County has been established as an outdoor destination. Though most of tourists’ days are spent outside of their accommodations, their highly active schedules build a desire for a comfortable place to spend their evening.

“When they come here, they’re looking to be outside,” said Hill. “The last thing you want to worry about it not having a comfortable spot to sleep.”

The difficulty with creating enough accommodation persists, however actions are consistently being taken to combat the issue. A new Best Western is coming to St. Stephen, which Hill says will alleviate some of the need.

Great for travellers directly across the border, the 60+ room hotel will include a spa and restaurant, among other accommodations, providing a high-end, relaxing stay. The top floor of the hotel will include condos, working to combat two issues with one solution.

“You can see the United States from the hotel,” said Hill.

Going forward into the autumn, the county’s established outdoor destination status will depend on the chambers’ ability to work together and embrace the region, which Hill explained has worked well since the chambers first began collaborating.

“There are a lot of knowledgeable people in positions that can make things happen,” she said.

Being the only place in New Brunswick where you can see whales in the Bay of Fundy is enough draw for tourists to continue coming back to Charlotte County, which can’t happen unless there are accommodations and staff to support them.