Campground prepares for second pandemic summer

·3 min read

MURPHY’S COVE – Seasonal tourism operators are entering their second season during a global pandemic. Many are wondering – did summer 2020 prepare them for this upcoming summer?

Murphy’s Camping on the Ocean hosts guests from all over the world. More than 50 per cent of guests typically come from outside Nova Scotia, with 33 per cent percent being international. Owner/operator Ryan Murphy told The Journal via email how very different the 2020 season was for the business.

“With COVID, our interprovincial and international [guests] went to zero. The Atlantic bubble had very little effect for us. We adjusted our marketing budget to focus locally and – fortunately – we were able to mostly make up the shortfall with Nova Scotia guests.”

Murphy suggested the 2021 season will undoubtedly be different from a typical year, but he remains hopeful it will be closer to normal than 2020. “Our greatest success with COVID was transitioning quickly to capitalize on more local guests from around Nova Scotia,” Murphy said. “Our greatest challenge with COVID has been navigating the constantly changing public health requirements and the government assistance programs.”

One of the largest challenges for Murphy’s in 2020 was the additional work required for reservations. Murphy’s Camping processed 40 per cent more bookings in 2020 than in 2019 – due to the extensive number of cancelled bookings from interprovincial and international guests – and subsequent bookings from provincial guests.

“Another challenge COVID posed for us was our nightly mussel boils – which generally encourage interaction amongst guests and is something for which we are well known,” Murphy said. “Our decision to cancel the mussel boils for the 2020 season was not made lightly, but we felt was necessary to help limit interaction amongst guests.”

Murphy’s Camping on the Ocean celebrated its 60th year in operation in 2020 – making it one of the most well-established tourism operations in Nova Scotia. “As a small campground, with just 51 campsites, we offer a very hospitable atmosphere promoting interaction between guests,” said Murphy.

He spoke of the history of the business and shared that during the past 10 years Murphy’s Camping has received guests from more than 60 countries. “Murphy's Camping is committed to providing an unforgettable camping experience for its guests by creating a friendly and hospitable atmosphere in a picturesque environment. Our main activities include overnight accommodations and wild island adventures, including scenic boat tours, boat charters and an island drop-off service.”

Murphy explained Murphy’s Camping on the Ocean has historically invested a significant portion of its marketing budget outside Nova Scotia and Canada. “As a result [the campground] has seen double digit growth in recent years – outpacing average tourism growth in the province.”

Bookings for 2021, Murphy said, are not on pace with typical years – but that is expected. “With the timeline for international travel still largely unknown, our bookings consist of provincial guests and some hopeful interprovincial guests,” he said. “Generally speaking, provincial reservations do not reserve as far in advance as international guests; hence, fewer bookings at this time.”

As a well-established Nova Scotia seasonal business operator, Murphy noted the company understands its position of privilege as a longstanding tourism operation will help it weather the COVID pandemic. “As a business that was founded closer in date to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic than the present-day pandemic – we’re confident in our ability to bounce back from the impacts that COVID-19 is having locally and around the world.

“We’re hopeful tourism in Nova Scotia will recover swiftly following the pandemic and – as a province – we can get back on track toward reaching the goal set forth by the Ivany Report … that is to double tourism revenue from 2014 to 2024.” Murphy believes this goal is almost certainly unachievable following the pandemic, given the long-term effects it will have on global travel. “That said,” he notes “… we must keep our sights set high.”

Murphy took over in 2019 from his parents – Brian and Marilyn Murphy, who are still working in the business. They are currently in a three-year transition period.

Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal