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Cape Breton tourism expected to shine this summer
This year, the tourism spotlight will shine on Louisbourg with the 18thcentury fortress town celebrating its 300th anniversary. And dont expect just a cake and best wishes Louisbourg is going all out with plenty of special events every month until the end of the year.
Still, despite Louisbourgs plethora of parties, there are people who might even dispute its claim on having the premiere event of the summer. After all, theres also the Gaelic Colleges 75th anniversary, the launch of Race the Cape, the third year of the Right Some Good culinary festival, the 40th anniversary of Action Week, bringing the Silver Dart replica to the Bell Museum in Baddeck, and the first PGA Canada event ever to be held in Atlantic Canada at The Lakes Golf Club.
And thats not counting the annual festivals, ftes and events held in every town and village, or those things you only do in the summer, such as swim at the islands beaches or golf.
There is so much going on, said Destination Cape Breton executive director Mary Tulle, laughing. Ive got more people coming to sleep on my floors than I can shake a stick at.
Tulle is confident that all the events should lead to further visits to the island, and if website interest is any indicator, she could be right. tourism just released their stats that their website visits are up six per cent, said Tulle. Were up over 60 per cent. Cape Breton Island is up over 60 per cent in solid inquiries, with increased length of stay and declining bounce rates. Those are things we look very strongly on.
Much of the interest this year is focused on events taking place at Fortress Louisbourg and thats something visitor experience manager Lester Marchand hopes will have longterm effects.
The kinds of programs and products that we put together with our partners for this years celebrations, these are all programs and partners that well be doing in 2014 in different ways, said Marchand. So were using this year to launch Louisbourg in a new light. And in so doing, launch Cape Breton in a new light, Nova Scotia in a new light, so on and so forth.
Its all part of an overall goal to get people to visit for the first time and to keep visiting. While no one would give specific figures on how many people are expected this summer, a look at past years may put the statistics into further context. According to Nova Scotia Tourism indicators, in 2012, Cape Breton had a 40 per cent occupancy rate for the year, with July, August and September offering 54, 67 and 48 per cent occupancy rates respectively. These occupancy rates also include those busy times when no rooms were readily available.
In comparison, Halifax Metro had a 60 per cent occupancy rate 69, 74, 79 per cent in July, August and September respectively while the province had a 48 per cent occupancy rate 58, 65 and 59 per cent in July, August and September. Northumberland Shore had a 41 per cent occupancy rate with 51, 58 and 55 per cent in July, August and September.
In 2011, Cape Breton had a 42 per cent occupancy rate for the year, with July, August and September offering 63, 63 and 52 per cent occupancy rates. Halifax had a 59 per cent occupancy rate for the year, with July, August and September offering 67, 70 and 77 per cent occupancy rates, while the province had a 48 per cent occupancy rate for the year, with July, August and September offering 59, 60 and 60 per cent occupancy rates. Northumberland Shore had a 44 per cent occupancy rate, with 57, 55 and 57 per cent in July, August and September.
In May, Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Minister Graham Steele released the provinces fiveyear strategy for tourism, with the department focusing its marketing efforts on firsttime visitors, since their numbers have been declining.
Firsttime visitors spend 42 per cent more and travel farther throughout the province, but make up only 19 per cent of the two million annual visitors. Tulle would also like to see more of those visitors head north to the Cape, and her organization maintains a booth on the Halifax waterfront to ensure they are persuaded to come here.
When we talk to operators, theyre feeling good, theyre looking at a good year, said Tulle, who says she feels that after years of solid work, the pieces are finally falling into place. So anything that we have right now as performance indicators, were feeling good because its our operators who are telling us more so from our side. Were seeing it in our visitation.
Very positive outlook, but a reality check can be obtained from a New York Times Article reprinted in Saturdays Chronicle Herald. We are providing great facilities and events,have some excellent ambassadors greeting our visitors and great scenery; however some of our tourism facility providers are clearly missing the mark and standards set by other operators. Mediocre menus, basic or sub standard acommadations, amenities and attitudes will not bring repeat visits and can result in bad publicity. It only takes one bad story to defeat the efforts of those that go out to provide a great experience to our visitors.