What will happen with Nova Scotia’s visitor info centres?

Tina Comeau tcomeau@thevanguard.ca
Published on February 19, 2016

Visitor information centre in Yarmouth.

©TINA COMEAU PHOTO

YARMOUTH – As the calendar inches towards another tourism season, worry over the province’s intentions for tourist bureaus is growing.

The owner/operator of Tusket Island Tours in Wedgeport is among those concerned.

“We would be extremely discouraged if any visitor information centres were closed down,” says Lucien LeBlanc. While social media and travel websites have come a long way, he says they don’t compete with the knowledge and pride of workers at the visitor information centres (VICs).

The Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) is also speaking up about concerns.  TIANS says no decision should be made without the government first carrying out a comprehensive review of the centres, how the province services visitors and alternative options for service delivery.

TIANS also wants research to be done on the on the economic impact to the tourism sector that results from the face-to-face interactions that occur between staff and visitors at the VICs.

“The entry points are very important and they provide one of the best opportunities we have to influence sales as soon as people arrive in the province,” says TIANS president Darlene Grant Fiander. “We need a holistic discussion on how Nova Scotia can be best-in-class in how it services visitors to the province. Wholesale closure of the best centres we have is not the solution.”

She says her organization has been hearing from tourism operators who are worried.

“Industry operators from across Nova Scotia are extremely concerned and puzzled by these potential closures and are questioning how this can be happening without the industry being part of the conversation,” Grant Fiander says.

READ ALSO: What do municipal units think of VICs closures?

Following a Feb. 11 cabinet meeting, Premier Stephen McNeil said the government has been looking “at a whole host of issues for delivering services” in the province. He said no decision about VICs had been made.

However, an employee at the centre in Yarmouth, who asked her name not be used, says workers were questioning signals they were seeing last year:  things that had happened at the centre in previous seasons were discontinued.

 “If you’re going to let us go, please tell us you’re going to let us go,” she says. “Don’t leave us in the dark.”

Aside from job losses, the woman notes VIC closures would result in the loss of valuable interaction with tourists, which she says translates into longer stays and business for the province.

Argyle-Barrington MLA Chris d’Entremont says VIC doubt, coupled with no clear plan for the Yarmouth-Maine ferry, is difficult for the area. He says the government needs to make its intentions known.

“The uncertainty and chaos the Liberal government is creating undermines the entire tourism industry,” he says. “Small businesses operators and the people who rely on these jobs need to be part of the plan and the solution.”

 

At a Glance:

There are six provincial visitor information centres: Yarmouth, Amherst, Port Hastings, Peggy’s Cove, Halifax waterfront and Halifax airport.

In 2014, major upgrades were made to the centre in Yarmouth, including adding touch-screen maps, access to iPads and other technological improvements.