The Newfoundland and Labrador government launched a 2022 Come Home Year campaign Monday morning in St. John's, but Premier Andrew Furey revealed few details of the yearlong tourism drive to come.
The provincial government hopes the move will drum up tourism for a sector hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage newcomers to stick around for the long term.
In 2020, Newfoundland and Labrador saw 10.8 per cent of tourism businesses close for good, according a government media release citing a March report from federal government tourism agency Destination Canada.
"There's nothing that quite compares to coming home to Newfoundland and Labrador, and after what we've all been through over these last two years, we have certainly earned it," Furey said.
"Our tourism and hospitality sector has earned it, perhaps more than any other industry in our province. Their resilience during the pandemic is a testament to their strength and ingenuity of the people of this province."
The campaign will include $4 million for municipalities to organize events. Some of that money — $250,000 — comes from the Municipal Come Home Year Celebration grant. Up to $2,000 will be provided for individual municipal applications and up to $2,500 will be available to each community for regional applications.
The rest — $3.8 million — comes from the provincial cultural economic development program.
Watch the full announcement:
"The message we want to send to everyone around the world is that we're open for business in 2022. We know there's a lot [of] expats out there across the country and around the world that are longing to come home," Furey told reporters at the kickoff.
"We want to welcome them home. We want to do so in a co-ordinated fashion."
In July the province announced $30 million in the 2021 budget for financial relief for tourism and hospitality operators who faced substantial sales losses due to the pandemic. That was on top of $13 million committed for tourism marketing.
The volunteer host committee — formed to provide insight into special events and initiatives held throughout next year — includes recognizable names with Liberal Party ties such as Heidi Bonnell, who worked as a communications director in the premier's office under Brian Tobin, former premier Dwight Ball and businessman Mark Dobbin, who was a major donor to Furey's Liberal leadership campaign.
The 16 members, including campaign co-hosts Bonnell and television personality Rick Mercer, will provide advice to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation to develop and implement events and initiatives while acting as ambassadors to the province.
Rounding out the committee are Ball, actress Petrina Bromley, chef Jeremy Charles, Dobbin, musician Alan Doyle, Inuk classical singer Deantha Edmunds, Olympic curler Brad Gushue, actor Allan Hawco, Paralympian Liam Hickey, theatre director Jillian Keiley, tourism promoter Colleen Kennedy, film producer Paul Pope, Indigenous artist Charlene Rumbolt and choral director Kellie Walsh.
The campaign also includes a new provincial licence plate to commemorate the year. Service N.L. Minister Sarah Stoodley said the plates will be available in early January and issued to anyone who buys a new vehicle in 2022 or needs a replacement plate. Some will be made available for purchase, Stoodley said.
The tourism industry provides about $1 billion a year in economic revenue for Newfoundland and Labrador, said Furey said, who said the Come Home Year campaign is needed to help get the industry back on its feet.
"It will be monumental, something that will earn its place sketched in our collective memory of this dark period of our time," said Furey. "A bright light, a beacon of hope, to recognize when we all turned a page."