And although the first passengers to visit Yarmouth via the Cat ferry from Maine won’t be arriving until June 1, the tourism sector has been preparing for many months.
On April 20, a tourism stakeholder info session was held at the Rodd Grand Hotel.
There were presentations from Tourism Nova Scotia, Yarmouth & Acadian Shores Tourism Association, the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia and Yarmouth Recreation.
Tourism Nova Scotia’s chief marketing officer Joann Fitzgerald, and director of communications Kelli MacDonald were among the first to speak.
MacDonald described how the industry’s strategy is now focused around four key pillars: to attract first-time visitors to Nova Scotia, to invest in markets of highest return (highest value visitors), focus on world-class experiences and to build Nova Scotia’s tourism confidence.
“As an industry, we’ve truly, really upped our game. I hope that 2017 is even better than our record 2016 year,” said MacDonald, referring to 2.2 million visitors last year.
“Let’s do everything we can to beat that number this year.”
An ambitious goal for the province is to double tourism revenues - from two billion in 2014 to four billion by 2024.
The strategy in marketing now is to do “fewer, bigger, best.” Fitzgerald says that means using fewer channels than they have in the past to be more efficient
“We moved print out of our campaigns and moved that money into digital, but in mass media campaigns we still have TV. Digital’s taking a bigger role in what we’re doing,” she said.
Glenn Squires, chair of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia, says one of the biggest challenges the industry faces is extending the season.
“If we’re going to do four billion dollars in receipts, we’re not going to do it from the 12th of July to the 30th of September,” he said. “We simply don’t have the capacity.”
Neil MacKenzie, general manager of Yarmouth and Acadian Shores Tourism Association (YASTA), talked about the success of some of the programs tested last year
The Yarmouth Foodie Walking Tour included stops at half a dozen local eateries, including the farmers’ market.
“We had too many (participants) at times. We had to figure out how we were going to keep the line moving downtown,” said MacKenzie.
Canada’s 150th anniversary will be incorporated into some events this year. The region’s official Starlight tourist destination designation (the first in North America) and recognition as a UNESCO Biosphere reserve will be marketed much more in 2017.
The Eat, Drink, Look-Up! package was tested last year. It includes ferry passage, two nights in a hotel, a foodie tour, living wharves experience, lobster dinner at the Hatfield House and night-sky viewing at the Deep Sky Eye observatory.
See more YASTA promotional videos online