Saint Andrews feels the buzz again as tourists return to the seaside town

·4 min read
Saint Andrews says summer visitors to its welcome centre have tripled over last year. Travellers from the United States, Ontario and Quebec are driving the hospitality rebound. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)
Saint Andrews says summer visitors to its welcome centre have tripled over last year. Travellers from the United States, Ontario and Quebec are driving the hospitality rebound. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)

Italy, Latvia, Israel, Mexico and Japan are just some of the far-flung places that appear in this year's guest book at the Saint Andrews welcome centre.

But it's the hundreds of travellers from Quebec, Ontario and the U.S. who are driving the tourism comeback of 2022.

"Some of the established businesses have told us that it's their best year in the history of their business," said Julia Halbleib, office manager for the St. Andrews Chamber of Commerce.

"Even the shoulder seasons are looking very busy so it's not just July and August but also into October."

WATCH | Saint Andrews celebrates return of tourists, looks forward to busy fall

This was the first full summer that Canada kept its land crossings open to vaccinated Americans after closing the border to non-essential travel for 17 months, starting in March 2020.

Rachel Cave/CBC
Rachel Cave/CBC

Bill Ritter, of Denver, Colo., said finally, he was able to do the motorbike tour he had to cancel two years ago.

"I said now's my window so here I am. The people have been awesome."

Numbers from the land crossings in New Brunswick show that while traffic is down from pre-pandemic levels, it is roaring back with more than five times the traffic this summer compared to the past two.
In the first week of August 2022, the Canada Border Services Agency counted 18,504 non-commercial highway travellers crossing into Atlantic Canada.

During the same week in 2021, it was 3,048 and in 2020 it was 2,918. In 2019, it was 36,443.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

"I've seen Louisiana. I've seen Texas. We've had New York, lots from New York and a lot from New Hampshire and Maine," said Cheryl Hewitt, board member of the St. Andrews Farmers' Market, which was bustling Thursday.

"They're happy. They're buying New Brunswick products. They're having something to do and it's like life all over again."

Jonathan Collicott/CBC
Jonathan Collicott/CBC

Two years ago, in his role as the mayor of Saint Andrews, Doug Naish was urging visitors to stay away to help protect against the spread of COVID. The town closed its parks, and beaches were closed off with barricades.

This summer, he's spending many of his retired days as a town greeter.

"The focus is on welcoming people here because you really want them to be here," said Naish in an interview at his daughter's cafe.

Over the grinding of espresso beans and the hubbub of a steady stream of customers, Naish described why he likes to volunteer.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC


 
"Welcome to Saint Andrews —  when you say that, people brighten up," he said.

"We say, 'What can I do for you? What are you interested in? What are your hobbies? How much time do you have to spend here?'"

Naish said people will sometimes come back to the welcome centre the following day and say they had so much to do, they decided to extend their visit.

"And that's really good for everybody," he said.

Jam-packed September

Business owners are starting to look ahead to what may be the busiest week of their calendar year.

The Liberal Party of Canada is hosting a three-day retreat at the Algonquin starting Sept. 11.

As many as 158 caucus members are expected to attend. The event will also draw members of the national media and the RCMP.

Visitors crossing into New Brunswick, August 1-7

"We are ready to welcome them with open arms," said Nicolas Messian, general manager of the Algonquin.

Messian said the landmark resort has been running at 85 per cent capacity, a rebound driven by pent-up demand.

And while he's determined to give his guests excellent service, he said finding enough qualified workers has been a challenge.

The Saint Andrews golf course, an adjunct to the resort, has had to close its bar and grill for lack of servers.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

However, staff say food and beverage service will be restored when the PGA of Canada comes to town for a three-day event that also starts Sept. 11.

More than 50 assistant professionals have registered to play and total attendance could reach about 100, says Akash Patel, managing director of championships and events.

"We do like to bring this event around the country," said Patel. "And Saint Andrews — what better place to bring it, in New Brunswick."