Region will benefit from travellers staying closer to home
Okay, so we may not be on par with balmy Caribbean locales, but in terms of provincial tourism, Hants County has it in the bag. According to recent statistics our region is a now considered a key destination point that will only continue to grow.
In fact, Hants Regional Development Authority (RDA) executive director Ryan McNeil points out that Hants County is one of only a handful of areas that has seen tourism growth over the past year. “Overall, Nova Scotia hasn’t seen any increase in tourism for the past five years, yet Hants County has seen a 20 per cent rise this year alone.”
Tourism revenues in the region have experienced a steady incline over the past four years, he said, from just under 15 million in 2004 to almost 20 million at the end of 2007. MacNeil projects those figures will continue to rise by another 5 million by 2012.
The Nova Scotia Department of Tourism recently invested over $12,000 in funding to support the RDA’s Hants County Strategic Tourism Plan, which MacNeil said would be used to analyze how best to keep tourism in this region growing. “What we need to do now is take a step back and find out how Hants County fits in with the broader tourism industry. We need to take some real action now to grow tourism despite what else is happening globally.”
MacNeil said there have been some changes in the past few years, which has put Hants County front and centre on the tourism map. “Hants County was typically left out of the original trail system used by Tourism Nova Scotia,” he said. But with the newly designated zones, Hants County has even greater exposure for visitors. “We are at the centre of the Bay of Fundy Region and are now the gateway to the Annapolis Valley Region.” “The shift from the old routes to the new zones has made a difference in terms of exposure for tourists from outside of the region,” he noted.
This has created a whole new set of opportunities for the tourism market locally, he said. “It’s really time for Hants County to step up and drive tourism growth, not only for this area, but for Nova Scotia in general. It’s time we maximize our potential tourism revenue.”
Although the Maritimes and Canada, in general, have seen a decline in international visitors of late, MacNeil said there has been a growth in domestic travel. “There are a lot more people satisfied with being tourists ‘at home.’”
This could have something to do with inflated gasoline prices motorists witnessed in the past year, MacNeil said. “People are choosing weekend getaways or day trips over longer, more expensive ventures.”
Staying closer to home
The same goes for overseas travel. Fewer people are making that investment, he said. “Travellers are more likely now to save their pennies and visit places closer to home. “It is less likely a family will drive to say, Niagara Falls, for their summer holiday,” he noted, “and that’s all part of what’s driving tourism locally.”
The result, he said, is that Hants County has become a key destination point for Maritime travelers. “We are just a short drive from Halifax and close to the airport.”
MacNeil noted, as well, that the addition of the Super 8 Hotel in Windsor has had a drastic impact on tourism in West Hants. “That has increased our number of room nights available,” he said. As well, in the last four years, Windsor has seen a general increase in new Inns and restaurants. “There has been a lot of activity in the tourism sector here.” He noted that this has not escaped the attention of possible investors. “People know the potential here.”
Just last summer, for example, the “Ring of Fire” motorcycle rally drew thousands of visitors to downtown Windsor. “We have a relatively small tourist sector here, but with a lot to offer,” MacNeil said. “What we need to work on in the New Year is developing that and marketing what we already have.”
The RDA is... -One of the 13 Regional Development Authorities in Nova Scotia -Making connections that help Hants County achieve sustainable prosperity -Receives funding from the Municipalities of East and West Hants as well as Windsor and Hantsport, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the provincial departments of Economic Development and Community Services -A non-for-profit agency incorporated under Nova Scotia's Regional Development Act. -Currently involved in more than 20 local tourism and heritage projects within Hants County