STELLARTON – Amidst the decline in tourism in Pictou County, the uncertainty surrounding Pictou Lodge and Stonehame Chalets, Patrick Sullivan spoke at NSCC Pictou of a new strategy to help bring travellers back to Nova Scotia.
Sullivan, the CEO of Nova Scotia Travel Agency was at the campus to speak to Tourism Program students about the agency and its plans for the future of tourism in the province.
“Let’s be honest, the economy hasn’t been in great shape in the last few years,” said Sullivan. Statistics show while tourism is down nationally 18 per cent, Nova Scotia has fared relatively well, dropping only nine per cent in the last 10 years.
He countered calls for government subsides to support the tourism industry. “I’m not in the subsidy business, I’m in the marketing business, and it’s clear to me that a business that can stand on its on, a profitable business is a successful one.”
To say a single issue, like the Yarmouth ferry, is a quick fix to tourism woes in the province, is misguided said Sullivan. “Yes, it’s an important issues, but it’s simplistic to say one thing will solve the issues we’re facing.”
The government has issued its plan, ‘Long term strategy for Tourism,’ and highlights five pillars for growth, including leadership and collaboration; inspirational, strategic marketing; evidence-based decision-making; higher-quality product experiences; and improved access to Nova Scotia and throughout the province.
“We’ll be making a push to attract tourists from Ontario and Quebec, a place we haven’t advertised in since 2009,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan says Pictou County faces challenges, such as staying up to date and entry costs. “The traveller of 1995 is not the traveller of 2013,” said Sullivan, noting most who travel expect flat-screen TVs and wi-fi. “Mind you it can be tough to update your establishment if your profits are minimal.”
According to Sullivan, travellers to N.S. aren’t necessarily looking for places to just kick back and relax; they’re looking for experiences. “People don’t want to just stay in a B&B,” he said, “they want to go clam digging, bring them back and cook them for supper.”
“As government, we want to provide marketing. The big win is when tourists use social media to share their experiences with their friends, who share it with their friends and so on.”
The agency will be launching new videos in the next few weeks to market the province to travellers. It will focus on three areas: N.S. as a place of freedom, discovery and engagement.
“The industry has been in decline for a while,” said Sullivan. “It will take some time to get it fixed.”
Originally from Nova Scotia, Sullivan holds a Bachelor of Administration from Mount Saint Vincent University and has worked for several private companies including Procter and Gamble, McCains Food Ltd., Moosehead Breweries Ltd., Upper Canada Brewing Company, Sympatico and Workopolis.
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn
SIDEBAR: Tourism by the numbers (2010)
– Nova Scotia’s GDP
– Visitor economy’s percentage of provincial economic activity
-value of provincial visitor economy
– Northumberland Shore share in visitor economy
– Northumberland Shore tourism revenues
* Source: Nova Scotia Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, Statistics Canada