Top News

Port Saunders woman returns home to create opportunities in tourism

Vonnie Lavers is working toward several tourism-related investments in her hometown of Port Saunders. She is currently establishing two Airbnbs for this summer.
Vonnie Lavers is working toward several tourism-related investments in her hometown of Port Saunders. She is currently establishing two Airbnbs for this summer. - Submitted

'It's exciting times'

PORT SAUNDERS, N.L. – After 39 years out west, a Port Saunders woman has returned home to get involved with the province’s tourism industry and help ensure a future for her community.

Vonnie Lavers moved back to Port Saunders from British Columbia in December of last year with hopes of creating business opportunities through the province’s focus on tourism development.

In the few months she has been home, Lavers has been hard at work researching and networking to establish herself in the tourism sector.

For this summer she is renovating two properties in the town to turn them into Airbnb accommodations.  At the same time, she’s keeping a close eye on the tourists' experience to gain more insights for future endeavours.

“I’m researching what opportunities can be pursued and seeing what visitors to Newfoundland and Labrador want,” said Lavers. “I want to tailor business opportunities to match that and explore what those opportunities will be.”

Ultimately Lavers wants to establish for the Port Saunders area a social enterprise and charity, modelled in a similar way to Zita Cobb’s Shorefast Foundation on Fogo Island.

“I think it’s exceptional what the Shorefast Foundation has achieved,” Lavers said. “With profits from the Fogo Island Inn going back into the community 40 new businesses have started as a result of those efforts.”

This proposal of a charity network is something Lavers has devoted much of her life to. In 2012, she was awarded a Governor General’s Award for her charitable work alleviating child poverty in Canada.

Whether it be through farmers markets, boat tours, historic lighthouses, indigenous heritage or seal skin products, Lavers says that emphasising the cultural traditions and customs of Newfoundland and Labrador is the key component to growing tourism.

“The important thing to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador is that sense of place, and when tourists come here they want that traditional cultural experience,” she said.

Lavers has her eyes particularly set on Keppel Island near the harbour of Port Saunders, and ways the island could be used in the future as a tourism destination.

As well, she hopes these developments can be a further encouragement for younger people to remain in the rural outports of the province. Lavers say she hears the sentiment from young people often that they would love to stay home, but without the economic opportunities they have no choice but to leave.

“Most of them I speak to would prefer to stay, but we have to create jobs and a reason for young people to stay,” she said.

As she prepares her Airbnb and meets with various enterprises, investors and community leaders, Lavers is keeping her heart on a strong hope and investment for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“It’s exciting times,” Lavers said. “I think there’s a lot of open-mindedness now to jumping onboard with this kind of work. People are enthusiastic and want to get involved.”

kyle.greenham@northernpen.ca
 

Recent Stories