While N.L. tourism operators see a surge in business, pandemic problems remain

·3 min read
Tourism numbers are way up in Newfoundland and Labrador but some operators are facing challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.  (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Tourism numbers are way up in Newfoundland and Labrador but some operators are facing challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press
Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

Tourism season is booming in Newfoundland and Labrador once again, with some operators saying they are busier now than before the pandemic.

But pandemic-related problems are still plaguing the industry as car rental shortages, COVID-19 outbreaks and flight cancellations are causing headaches for many involved.

Marieke Gow, manager of Twine Loft Dining and Artisan Inn and Vacation Homes in Trinity, said Wednesday that business so far this is summer is exceeding even pre-pandemic levels, and it's a relief.

"Everyone is kind of running on full cylinders right now, trying to keep up with the volume of the interest. We have a combination of a lot of guests checking in that booked these trips back in 2019 and rearranging their trips for years," Gow said.

"In addition to that, we have the new cycle of tourists plus all the Newfoundlanders who kind of discovered staycationing over the past two years of the pandemic. I haven't really seen that trend die off either."

Kimberley Orren, owner of Fishing for Success in Petty Harbour, said she's seeing the same situation. Numbers are way up and she's even having to turn away some business because of how busy things are.

"That's disappointing, too, because you'd like to be able to provide the experience for everyone," she said.

Travel problems

With people beginning to vacation again, travel industries are struggling to keep up with the surge.

Cancelled flights equated to lost bookings for Orren at the beginning of the season. A challenge in finding rental vehicles prompted others to postpone trips and their bookings with her company, she said.

"Those 24-hour backups and delays were trickling down to us, which are a little more difficult for us to try to adjust," said Orren.

"If you're providing an experience in fishing — which we all know the food fishery is just a Saturday, Sunday, Monday experience — if they miss that window then they've got four more days to wait and then sometimes you can't reschedule them."

Hayley Mitchell
Hayley Mitchell

Gow said a good chunk of customers from outside Newfoundland have been choosing to drive themselves to the island due to the lack of available rentals.

"I've spoken to a lot of people who are renting their vehicles in Nova Scotia, paying for them to be brought over on the ferry, so that they can drive around Newfoundland," she said.

"It's definitely been a huge challenge and we've moved to a system where people have to check off that they have access to a vehicle before they can actually book accommodations because we wanted to avoid a situation where people were holding accommodations, hoping to get a vehicle and then having to cancel last minute."

Airport taxis

It's not only a shortage of rental cars that's throwing a wrench into people's Newfoundland and Labrador travel plans.

A planeload of passengers arrived at the airport in St. John's on Saturday night to find there were no taxis outside waiting for them.

Lisa Bragg, business development and marketing director for the St. John's International Airport Authority, said the taxi shortage has been an off and on problem through the pandemic.

She said the airport welcomes any kind of public feedback in an attempt to make things better for passengers.

"During the pandemic we lost a dispatcher, which is a really important role curbside that directs the traffic … and really keeping control on things," said Bragg.

"We have a dispatcher back now with our taxi partner, five days a week during peak times. It's not currently extending into that mid-morning hour, especially when there's delays experienced, but we're working on it."

Bragg said businesses, including cab companies, are still facing staffing shortages.

"We're trying. We have a great relationship with our taxi partner but sometimes we're not where we need to be," she said.

"We recognize it, we own it and we're trying to get better."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting