SOUTH WEST NOVA SCOTIA - Yarmouth & Acadian Shores (YAS) tourism numbers are climbing.
Room nights sold in the region were up 17 per cent year-to-date to July and up 7 per cent for July alone, says Neil MacKenzie, executive director for Yarmouth and Acadian Shores.
“YAS and Halifax Regional Municipality were the only two regions to have tourism growth for the year up to and including July,” he says.
“This is great news when you consider 2017 was a banner year for Canada and Nova Scotia due to Canada 150 Celebrations,” he added.
YAS also had a 74 per cent occupancy rate for July, which is a 6 per cent increase when compared to July 2017. YAS occupancy rate year-to-date to July is up 7 per cent.
MacKenzie points out that in 2010 Yarmouth & Acadian Shores accounted for just 2 per cent ($43 million) of all tourism revenues in Nova Scotia. As of last year, YAS tourism revenues have grown another percentage point, which may not sound like a lot, but works out to $81 million of all tourism revenues in Nova Scotia. “That’s close to double in tourism revenue,” he says.
This year, a number of new tourism experiences were rolled out, including Yarmouth Harbour Tours, Savour the Sea - Wharfside Lobster Suppers, Yarmouth Walking Tours and Wine & Beer Tours of Nova Scotia. Trout Point Lodge has also continued to develop new nature-based and culinary experiences.
MacKenzie says that large and small accommodation operators throughout the region have made significant investments in infrastructure and in new product. “Accommodations are popping up in different areas. It’s great to see improved options for visitors,” he says.
He attributes the increase in visitor traffic to the provincial investment in the international ferry link and feels YASTA's strategic investments and partnerships in digital marketing and content have also had an impact.
The board of YASTA was “very pleased” to hear about the upcoming investment of close to $10 million for Yarmouth ferry terminal upgrades, says MacKenzie.
“All three levels of government are now committed to upgrading the Yarmouth ferry terminal to ensure we solidify the tourism opportunity,” he says.
The downtown facade program and investments at Cape Forchu and in stargazing experiences have also added to destination appeal.
The CAT ferry carried over 50,185 passengers this season, an increase of 21 per cent over 2017.
“This is fantastic news and a trend YASTA hopes continues,” says MacKenzie.
He adds that ferry passengers spend more than most other visitors to Nova Scotia and are generally in the province longer, so developing consistent connections to the U.S. market through the international ferry link is critical to continuing this success.
YASTA has been investing in the niche cruise market for two years and is pleased to see growth in the sector.
Norway-based Hurtigruten Group’s MS FRAM visited the town in May and again on Oct. 9.
The 90 passengers brought ashore this fall were from Germany, China and USA. There was also a group of travel agents on board.
The visitors were provided with a tour of the Lief Erikson trail at Cape Forchu and food by Keepers Kitchen.
Some passengers explored downtown gift shops and eateries.
Traffic to YASTA’s website - yarmouthandacadianshores.com - has increased. User traffic increased over 20 per cent when compared to 2017. The bounce rate has decreased and visitors have increased the amount of time they spend on the site.
The analytics information reflects content is relevant, fresh and engaging.
“There is always more work to do. We can always do better but I feel these are good signs,” says MacKenzie.
YASTA has been busy creating new content to market in 2019 and will be attending consumer shows in the New England market, including Boston and Portland. Representatives are also looking at attending a travel trade show in the fall of 2019. A new tourism experience will be launched at Cape Forchu in 2019.
“I expect we will see additional tourism experiences develop in 2019 as well,” he says.