Latest provincial tourism numbers show lower room nights sold compared to last year, other regions
The latest tourism numbers from the province were released last week and while the summer season is continuing to warm up, the numbers show things cooling down on the Northumberland shore.
© Adam MacInnis - New Glasgow News
Alisha MacMillan passes out a room key at the Tara Inn in New Glasgow. They've had a busy summer.
But the CEO of the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency says there’s no need to sound the alarm.
“The majority of visits to the province come between June and September,” said Pat Sullivan. “I look at the Northumberland Shore, these statistics from January to May and they only represent 29 per cent of the rooms nights of the season. It’s still early.”
Still, there is at least one reason besides the frequently cited post 9/11 travel scare, a strong Canadian dollar and high gas prices as to why people stayed away.
“Believe it or not weather is a big thing,” said Sullivan. “When I am talking numbers year to date, I look at February and March and if you remember every Wednesday we had a blizzard.”
This consistent bad weather had a palpable effect on room nights sold and occupancy on the Northumberland Shore. In February and March, the occupancy rate was down 2 per cent and room nights sold was down 8 per cent from the same period in 2013. That puts the region off by around 3,000 room nights compared to last year.
“Weather plays a big part in visitation across the province but I don’t want people to read into this too much,” said Sullivan. “Now May is down a little bit in the Northumberland region but we are seeing increases in other areas.”
From January to May, room nights sold in Nova Scotia were up five per cent compared with the same period in 2013. Room nights sold outside Halifax were up five per cent, and Metro Halifax, which accounts for 63 per cent of all room nights sold year-to-date, was also up five per cent.
According to NSTA, visits during the month of May were up three per cent at start the peak tourism season. The increase was driven by more visits by air, particularly from Ontario, up by 13 per cent. Visits by road in May were flat.
According to Cheryl West, manager of the Tara Inn in New Glasgow, July was a banner month thanks to the Maritime Fire Chiefs Convention and the Eastern Star Lodge convention.
“Around that time last year, the first couple weeks in July, we weren’t usually filling up every night,” said West. “I doubt we would have been full without those conventions and so far, into August, we’re a bit down.”
The Tara Inn is also kept at a high occupancy rate through workers visiting the county for short periods.
“Projects like the correctional facility, the marijuana production facility and the scheduled shut down of the pulp mill always keep us busy.”
Sullivan noted that these overnight visits are exactly what NSTA looks for as an indicator of spending in the province.
“We’re not able to track every time tourists will spend but longer stays likely mean they’re spending more,” he said. “I’m happy that overall the room nights are up a bit.”
Several regions contributed to the increase in room night sales outside of Halifax. The South Shore was up 10 per cent year-to-date, bolstered by the Canadian junior curling championships in Liverpool. Cape Breton has seen growth in room nights sold in each of the first five months of 2014, resulting in an increase of 11 per cent year-to-date. With the exception of Northumberland Shore, all regions have posted increases year over year in the January-May period. For the month of May, room nights sold across the province were up seven per cent
Sullivan noted that after seeing tourism numbers decline for many years, certain regions, such as Cape Breton and the South Shore are showing promise.
“Nova Scotia is like a big oil tanker. It’s starting to turn around but it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Strategies such target audiences in New England are beginning to bear fruit. American travellers from that region are up 12 per cent from last year and air travel was up into double digits.
“The season is still in its infancy and while 50 per cent of the months have passed, Nova Scotia’s tourism season isn’t yet at full capacity.”
This month, the NSTA has introduced a new tourism indicator measure – an estimate of accommodations revenues, based on the number of room nights sold and the average room rate. Room nights sold provide a proxy of tourism dollars spent in Nova Scotia. Year-to-date, room nights sold in Nova Scotia have generated $89 million in revenues, an increase of six per cent compared with the same period in 2013.
Sullivan noted that tourism numbers for June should be compiled and released in the coming weeks.
The Nova Scotia Tourism Agency helps to facilitate greater collaboration between industry and government to increase the number of visitors to the province and encourage them to spend more and stay longer, leading to increased revenue and industry profitability for the benefit of all Nova Scotians.
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn