Green Bay towns, businesses raise $10K to keep visitor info centre open

Despite provincial budget cuts to some visitor information centres in Newfoundland and Labrador, one centre in central Newfoundland has remained open.
A CBC viewer photo of a sunset over Green Bay. The area's development association says it's important for tourists to know about attractions that might not be listed on the internet. (Submitted by Cody Tucker )

Despite budget cuts to some visitor information centres (VIC's) in the province, one centre in central Newfoundland has remained open.

The Green Bay Visitor Information Centre is located on the Trans-Canada Highway, just before the Exit 390 turnoff to Springdale.

David Hayashida, secretary of the Green Bay Economic Development Association, told CBC Radio's Central Morning Show that towns and businesses in the region rallied together and raised $10,000 — enough to keep the centre open this year.
David Hayashida co-owns King's Point Pottery and is secretary of the Green Bay Development Association. (CBC)

Hayashida said tourism operators rely heavily on the centre to draw people in. 

"We got together as a group, and thought, 'We've got to go to the public, and see if we can get them to put the money together,'" he said, adding the centre is a "critical piece of infrastructure" for the area.

"It's a really strategic location. It's a huge, huge distance between the other VIC's that are still in existence, namely the one at Deer Lake and the one at Notre Dame Junction."

Hayashida said the association had a solid response from communities and businesses that were approached in the spring.

"We went out to the public, and said, 'We're going to need that again and we're going to need it right away,'" he said.

"And the response was amazing."

Burgeoning tourism area

Hayashida, who is the co-owner of King's Point Pottery, said there were 22 VIC's operating around the province, but 12 were closed because of budget constraints. 

He said tourism in the Green Bay region is rapidly growing, in fact, traffic at his business was up 20 per cent in 2015, and he believes numbers will be on par this year.

"I think of the bus tour traffic three years ago, when we had three bus tours ... and we thought that was amazing. Last year, we had around 25 bus tours — and this year it's looking like it's going to be around a hundred," he said.  

Salmon jumping upstream in Indian River, Green Bay - just one of the many attractions that encourage visitors to get off the beaten track. (Shana Morey)

Hayashida said government's idea that travellers rely on the internet for tourism information isn't quite right. 

He said the one-on-one interaction at an information centre is of incredible importance to a tourist. 

"When you can talk to a person in a visitor information centre that has the local accent, and [who] is super enthusiastic, that really changes their mind, or how long they're going to stay."

It's a really strategic location.- David Hayashida, on the Green Bay Visitor Information Centre

Hayashida says although the area raised $10,000 to keep the visitor centre open this year, it's unclear if they'll be able to do it again in 2017. 

He said the association, which has been in existence for 47 years, has expressed its funding frustration to government.

"They say, 'We're in deep debt and we need to pay bills,' and I say, 'Yes, you're in deep debt, I recognize that,'" said Hayashida.

"But if you don't support the economic generators — you're going to go deeper in debt."

With files from the Central Morning Show