TRAVEL TIPS – Karen Burshstein of Winnipeg is a Travel writer and she was in Twillingate recently taking photographs of icebergs in the area. Burshstein is one of the increasing number of travel writers being attracted to the area through Adventure Central’s familiarization (FAM) tours.
On the eve of Tourism Awareness Week in the province, Central Newfoundland leaders in the tourism and hospitality industry gathered in Gander to hear from one of its marketing leaders.
And they no doubt liked what they heard.
“Five years ago, we had 13 per cent of the provincial tourism market and now we are up to about 15 per cent…that may not sound like a lot, but it is when you consider that two per cent of 500,000 people is about 10,000 people,” Janice Goudie, market and media director for Adventure Central, told The Beacon, following the group’s annual general meeting last Tuesday.
“The tide is changing, and Central is no longer a drive-through region, it's a designation on the tourist map. And things are only going to get better.”
Actually, according the Adventure Central chairperson Peggy Hamilton, the 2014 spring/summer season has started with a bang.
“There are complaints about the cold weather and the ice, but the icebergs have been fantastic for tourism operators in central Newfoundland, especially along the coast,” said Hamilton. “The amount of icebergs has really attracted people to the area, and we’re seeing a lot more (tourist) activity earlier this year than in awhile.”
That’s probably no surprise to Adventure Central’s 100 members, as those in the industry know any great attraction brings curious tourists, both from off the island and within.
However, according Hamilton, local operators don’t have to depend on one or two great attractions to bring people to the region.
As part of its work, Adventure Central is bringing Central Newfoundland to all ends of the earth through various means such as trade shows and familiarization (FAM) tours with writers and photographers from some world-renown magazines. Most recently, these FAM tours have included writers and photographers from such publications as Chatelaine, National Post, Globe and Mail, Men’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Fodor’s and Air France.
“We’re getting out there, working connections, and bringing journalists from all over to the region, as well as meet with bus tour operators to get them to stop in central Newfoundland…there’s a lot of effort going into the marketing aspect on behalf of our members,” said Goudie. “We’re really getting out there world-wide to showcase the region and what we have to offer, whether it be an attraction, an accommodation, a restaurant, a specialty craft or artwork, or a tour.
“There’s certainly a lot here for a tourist, whether it be someone from away or a local tourist, to enjoy.”
Hamilton said two other aspects important to Adventure Central are having operators in the region working together to help promote other tourism and hospitality possibilities in the region, and making sure everyone is on onboard with the new provincial Tourism Assurance Plan (TAP).
This plan, according to Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador’s website, was introduced “to elevate the quality of tourism services and attractions available in the province. By establishing common minimum standards, industry partners are aiming to promote tourism organizations that provide quality travel experiences and assist tourism services and attractions improve the way they operate.”
“This is really important, and we’re working with the operators in our region to make sure everyone is compliant…it’s about having the best quality of product for our visitors,” said Hamilton. “That’s important to all aspects of the tourism and hospitality industry, as well as other businesses.”
All tourism services and attractions, with the exception of the outfitting sector, were to meet the TAP standards by May 31, while operators in the outfitting sector must meet the TAP standards by Dec. 31.
According to the HNL website, operators that are not compliant by the deadline dates will not be eligible to participate in 2015 provincial marketing and promotions or membership and/or partnership opportunities with Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador and/or the provincial Destination Management Organizations (DMOs), such as Adventure Central.
As for getting operators to work together, Hamilton said it’s a simple reason to do so for anyone in the industry.
“We want to keep visitors in the region as long as possible, which not only means more tourism dollars overall, but possibly a second or third stop in your business.” For example, she said, if a tourist stops in Gander for a night, and is given information about a boat tour in Twillingate, the next day this tourist could travel to Twillingate to see the whales. While there, the tourist could find out about the winery in the area, and plan to visit the next day — which means staying a night in Twillingate. By the time a few more small stops are made along the route, the tourist realizes it is late into their second day in the region and books another night’s accommodation in Gander before continuing on their original trip, she said of the potential scenario.
“If we don’t work together to keep tourists in the area, then we are not only losing potential business but possibly putting businesses in jeopardy of surviving. That’s why we are working at having operators working with each other.”
Both Hamilton and Goudie agreed there’s a lot for a tourist to see and experience in Central Newfoundland, and it’s up to their organization to make sure as many people as possible know about it.