NORTHERN PENINSULA AND SOUTHERN LABRADOR, NL – Tourism across the Great Northern Peninsula and Southern Labrador saw an increase in business on nearly all fronts this year.
From numbers gathered by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Development up until September 2017, the L’anse aux Meadows historic site saw an increase of 31 per cent in visitors. This summer 36,433 people made their way to the historic Viking settlement.
The national historic site in Port au Choix saw an even bigger increase – 58 per cent – from last year. Red Bay’s site also had a visitor increase of 19 per cent.
Red Bay had its best year ever, hitting a mile stone number of 12,028 visitors.
“It’s been a great year, and it was really exciting to surpass that 12,000-mark,” said Cindy Gibbons, visitor experience team leader at the site in Red Bay. “There was a lot of anticipation when we got down to the final few weeks and we realized we were close. Everyone was excited that finally, ‘we’ve got 12,000 people here.’”
The provincial park in Pistolet Bay near Raleigh saw an increase of six per cent from last year’s camping season. Pinware River Provincial Park in the Labrador Straits saw no change from 2016’s figures.
For most areas, the growing tourism industry in the province has been a great incentive for future investment and job opportunities. Monty Shears, owner of the Fishing Point Emporium in
St. Anthony, says 2017 has been a remarkable year for his business.
“It’s encouraging. It seems to be getting better every year,” Shears said. “Tourism is not enough to sustain a town like St. Anthony, but it’s a big help. St. Anthony, like most outports, needs everything it can get.”
Some declines were also noted. Due to icy conditions remaining late into the spring this year, the Labrador Straits ferry saw some minor decreases in passenger and vehicle movement – three and six per cent respectively. The St. Anthony Airport saw a 12 per cent decrease from data gathered from the first 10 months of the year.
Occupancy rates in the Labrador Straits declined by eight points. Rough highway conditions in this area became increasingly known to keep tourists and visitors away earlier this summer, and this likely played a significant role.
Lighthouse Gifts in Point Amour employee Kali Jones said in a previous Northern Pen interview that tourism in her area has suffered because of the Straits highway conditions.
“This year we’re primarily only seeing bus tours come through,” Jones said. “The individual travellers are pretty much nil at this point. There’s probably a lot of them saying, ‘we’re going to beat up our car if we keep going.’”
In late September and early October, work was underway to pave and patch many of the rougher areas of this highway.
The various centres, campgrounds and other facilities across Gros Morne National Park had considerable increases in all areas. From the numbers in 2016, bus tours alone had a 37 per cent increase. The number of bus tour passengers increased by 32 per cent.
Gros Morne’s visitor centre had a 25 per cent increase in visitors, and the Lobster Cove Lighthouse had a 20 per cent increase to 31,883. Camping nights recorded in the Gros Morne area up to September saw a 29 per cent increase.
Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Chris Mitchelmore was unavailable for comment by deadline.