Lobster roll

The Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage was handing out free lobster sandwiches at Parlee Beach Provincial Park on Wednesday. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

The Department of Tourism is hoping events, such as offering free lobster sandwiches at Parlee Beach Provincial Park, will create enough buzz on social media that it can help boost tourism.

Tourism officials were handing out 1,200 free lobster sandwiches at the popular beach in southeastern New Brunswick on Wednesday.

Lynn White, the tourism department’s acting manager of advertising and visitor engagement, said the department is trying to come up with innovative strategies to draw tourists to the province.

“We’re trying to think out of the box to get our markets in Quebec and Ontario, looking to see the neat things we're doing, instead of just seeing a print ad,” White said

“So we're trying to engage our fans at the same time as showing them what's going on in New Brunswick.”

Tourism officials at Parlee Beach

Tourism officials handed out 1,200 free lobster rolls, as a way to generate social media buzz about the province. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

In order to create that special experience, tourism officials set up a tent at the provincial park near Shediac and began handing out lobster sandwiches. She said the goal was to surprise people with the lobster rolls.

White said she hopes people will use social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to share photos and thoughts about the event.

"Our fan base is growing on social media,” she said.

“So one of the goals of this event is to engage the people who are following us already, but also to grow our community."

The tourism official said the advantage of social media is that it turns individuals into tourism “ambassadors” for the province.

“They are showing their own experiences, so there's a validity to that. It's not like seeing an ad,” she said.

'It's a great idea'

Jeff Ridal, a visitor from Ontario, was happy for the tasty surprise, and he said he will definitely be telling his friends back home about his New Brunswick vacation.

“It's a great idea, really super, gets people intermingling and promotes tourism,” he said.

The provincial government estimates that it reached 2,500 people through the event.

But the tourism department will spend the next few days measuring its success on social media.

The event cost less than $20,000, and is part of an ongoing strategy to promote the province and its parks, according to the provincial government.

Jesse Vergen, a well-known Saint John chef, created the recipe and helped give out lobster rolls at Parlee Beach.

He said he is happy to help get the word out that New Brunswick is a foodie haven.

"I think this is really showcasing the way the province wants to go, showcasing its local talent, its local flavours,” Vergen said.