Few positives for COVID tourism season, says industry group

·2 min read

A group representing New Brunswick's tourism industry says there are few positive notes for this year's tourism season.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the province in the early spring and restrictions of one form or another have remained in place ever since.

This has meant fewer people being able to travel into the province, and bad news for the tourism industry.

"We're very, very happy with our New Brunswick citizens that came through for the tourism industry and visited this beautiful province of ours," said Carol Alderdice, the CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick.

"But it's obviously not going to be enough to help the industry survive."

There were a few bright spots.

New Brunswickers appeared to embrace the staycation style.

Mixed staycations

Alderdice says this was spurred on by the province's Explore NB Travel Incentive, which saw the cost of some staycation purchases refunded.

She said this had a positive impact on some regions of the province, especially where outdoor attractions were in place.

"St. Andrews, for instance, they had a really good month of August. Miramichi had a, you know, a fairly good summer, the [Acadian] peninsula as well. They did, you know, as good as could be expected," said Alderdice.

But those few positives were overshadowed by negatives.

Alderdice said the Atlantic bubble did not have the impact on tourism numbers the industry had hoped and some areas of the province appear to have been left behind.

"The northern regions like Edmundston really didn't get any benefit of either the bubble or the incentive," said Alderdice.

"I'm really, really concerned about the Edmundston/Campbellton area."

Winter tourism

Alderdice said times are still lean for many businesses in the tourism sector.

A lot of hotel business in the winter is based on conferences, business meetings and sports tournaments, and all are up in the air because of the pandemic.

Alderdice said she wasn't sure how some companies have managed to stay in business this long into the pandemic and wonders how much longer they can.

Promoting the province as a winter tourist destination will be key to cushioning the blow.

"Partnerships between regions, partnerships between, you know, hotels and attractions, the snowmobile [industry]," said Alderdice.

"You know, there's quite a few things that we can do in the winter."

Alderdice said the Explore NB Travel Incentive will be extended to March 31 to encourage New Brunswickers to get out this winter.

CBC News has reached out to the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture for confirmation on the incentives extension but have not received a response yet.