To revitalize its tourism industry, which employs 20,000 people, the province wants to convince its former residents to come back to visit this summer. An approach that is not unanimous.
The Quidi Vidi sector is one of the main tourist attractions in Saint-Jean.
It's been a long time since such long queues of tourists have been seen in the streets of Saint-Jean. Vancouver, Thunder Bay, Toronto… we meet visitors from all over the country. René Cassabon and Lucie Duchesne left Laval, Quebec, in their recreational vehicle.
It's been two years since my wife wanted to see Newfoundland, then we postponed the project. It was this year that it happened, says René, who says he is completely charmed by the decor and the generosity of the residents.
René Cassabon and Lucie Duchesne came to enjoy the view of downtown Saint-Jean.
However, it is another tourist clientele that the province has in its sights: Newfoundlanders now established elsewhere. We knew this is a market that has obviously been disrupted over the past few years, says Tourism Minister Steve Crocker. We also know that all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a sense of belonging to their place of birth.
So it's to convince them to come back, but also to attract new visitors, that the Come Home 2022 campaignwas launched. You can see this invitation to come home everywhere: in promotional videos, on posters in the streets or on car license plates.
What we do is we invite everyone to come home, says Steve Crocker. And if you're not from Newfoundland and Labrador, I promise we'll make you feel at home.
A 'Come Home 2022' campaign poster greets arriving tourists at the Saint John airport.
Many players in the Newfoundland and Labrador tourism industry are responding positively to this campaign. For Gery and Lesa Winsor, who own a B&B in Saint-Jean, any initiative to stimulate tourism is welcome after two particularly trying years.
We had no visitors in 2020, remembers Gery. In 2021, business picked up quietly, but we only made about 40% of a regular year's revenue.
Gery and Lesa Winsor are the owners of the Winsor House B&B.
Cathy Duke, who represents the tourism industry in Saint John, agrees. Especially since, according to her, the Come Home 2022 campaignis necessary in a particularly competitive context after two years of pandemic.
“Every province, every territory, every city in the country is currently trying to convince tourists to come and visit them. We had to take part in this promotion offensive. ”
— Cathy Duke, President and CEO of Destination St. John's
Cathy Duke believes the Come Home campaign 2022will provide a valuable boost to the tourism industry.
Todd Perrin, chef and co-owner of the Mallard Cottage restaurant, doubts the relevance of the campaign, which cost four millions of dollars to taxpayers. Promoting Newfoundland and Labrador as a destination is like promoting a Canadiens game in Montreal, he says. People already want to go there. But if the doors are locked, they won't be able to enter.
Instead, he said, the government should tackle the obstacles faced by tourists, such as the shortage of rental cars. A problem which is not unique to the province, retorts the Minister of Tourism, but which is experienced almost everywhere in North America.
We even see problems in the chain supply of certain car models, points out Steve Crocker. This is not something our government could have fixed.
Signal Hill Historic Site is another must-see tourist attraction in Saint John.
Almost everywhere in Saint-Jean, we feel that the current tourist season will be comparable to what we observed before the pandemic. Gery and Lesa Winsor also receive daily calls to reserve rooms which, fortunately for them, have all already found takers. We really feel that people are happy to be able to travel again. They like to sit and chat around the same table, says Lesa.
A cook prepares lunch service at the Mallard Cottage restaurant.
The restaurant sector should not be left out. At Mallard Cottage, we have just experienced the best month of April since the opening of the restaurant. Michelle LeBlanc, owner of Chinched, another restaurant in Saint-Jean, also says she sees that tourists are already responding. On the other hand, it is the employees who are missing.
“Before, we had piles and piles of applications from people who wanted to come and work with us. Now, you have to do a lot of research to find replacements. ”
— Michelle LeBlanc, owner of Chinched restaurant
The feeling of a return to normal may make visitors happy, but the industry is not done face the challenges.