Tourism operators in Newfoundland and Labrador agree that the province’s loosened travel restrictions are a great help for the struggling industry, but some wonder if it will be enough.
As of Saturday, fully-vaccinated travellers no longer have to isolate upon their arrival in the province, however travellers still have to take a rapid COVID-19 test daily for five days after their arrival.
“It’s great news for us, it’s great news for Newfoundland,” said Clarah Germain, the director of the rooms division in the Alt Hotel in downtown St. John’s.
Germain said the move will increase the number of business travellers coming to the province. She said business travellers often don’t stay for very long, so even a short isolation period is a major deterrent to that clientele.
“It’s going to be a great help not to have to do that. And we’re still staying safe because we have the rapid testing and some restrictions in place.”
Future still uncertain, says tourism operator
But for tourism operators who don’t deal with business travellers, the loosened restrictions might not do much to improve the bottom line.
“People don’t trust loosening it,” said Ed English of Linkum Tours in Corner Brook, a company that operates two lighthouse inns as well as a series of boat tours.
“It loosens, it tightens, it comes, it goes.… [Travellers] don’t know what the future is going to be.”
English said last summer, his inns were only at 20 per cent of their normal occupancy and he said he’s now getting cancellations for tours that were first booked two years ago.
“We’re not going to recover that kind of business,” he said.
With tourism trade shows gearing up in the next couple of weeks, English said the provincial government should expand their tourism ad campaigns as soon as possible.
“I know the fiscal realities of the province, and the campaigns are wonderful. But, they’re just not big enough,” he said.
Despite his concerns, English said the recently loosened restrictions are “absolutely essential” for the industry. He said he’s getting a lot of good feelings from potential tourists and there’s a pent-up demand for travel.
“If people are sitting around planning their vacations, which is what they’re doing this time of year, they need to know that Newfoundland is a possibility.”
‘Locked and loaded for tourists’
Barry Rogers, the captain, owner and operator of Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours in St. John’s and Twillingate, said his company has increased their own social media campaigns to attract tourists to the province, and he feels it shouldn’t be the government’s responsibility to support the industry.
“All help is help,” Rogers said, referring to government’s support over the past two years.
“But at the end of the day, the onus is on the the operator as well. I mean, we are businesspeople and we’re entrepreneurs. And you call on all those experiences you’ve had in your life and reserves that you have when there’s a change in the environment like we’ve been dealing with. And that will hopefully leave a lot of businesses standing once this is all through.”
He said the loosened restrictions have him looking forward to a better season and he hopes the summer season will bring some heavy traffic to his tours.
“Our bookings are coming in pretty steady, even before Christmas, and really ramping up now,” he said.
Rogers said it’s good to have the province open to tourists now, as people around the world are preparing to travelling again. He said Newfoundland and Labrador remains a bucket list destination for many travellers, and he’s hopeful a lot of tourists will be crossing the province off their list this year.
“Newfoundland and Labrador is locked and loaded for tourists, in anticipation of a great season. And, if everything goes well, we’re committed to offering our experiences here in a province that a lot of Canadians don’t know much about. So, welcome. We’re here waiting.”