At midway point of summer, tourism officials celebrate potential 'record' season
Officials credit Canada 150 programming, strong U.S. currency and bucket lists for tourism increase
The official numbers aren't out yet but New Brunswick tourism officials and festival organizers are already celebrating one of the best tourist seasons in recent years.
"This has certainly been one of the best peak tourism seasons, summer seasons on record," said David Seabrook, manager of Fredericton tourism.
"When we look at last year, we had almost eight per cent growth over the year before and I think we're going to surpass that this year. I think we're on target for a great season."
It will be another six months before official tourism numbers are released, but tourism officials say hotel sales are strong and attractions and festivals attracted plenty of visitors this year.
I think Canada 150, there's a sense in the country of wanting to experience the country and more people staying home.- David Seabrook, manager of Fredericton Tourism
He credits a strong U.S. economy and dollar as well as low gas prices for an apparent increase in American visitors. But more people also wanted to stay closer to home, he said.
"I think Canada 150, there's a sense in the country of wanting to experience the country and more people staying home," he said.
"They did see an increase in American traffic last year, but the overwhelming gains last year were made by Canadians travelling in the country. Especially from Ontario and Quebec."
Weather, attractions and Canada 150
Jillian Somers, director of events and tourism in Moncton, said the city saw a significant increase in visitors in July alone, many of them from the Atlantic provinces, the U.S. and western Canada.
She said the city's tourism centres, which track visitor information, "think they're seeing an increase over last year."
Some of the biggest attractions in the region are the Magnetic Hill Zoo, Hopewell Rocks and Fundy Park, she said.
The good weather in July helped, too.
We've had really, really great sunny weather. We've had really awesome temperatures, August is looking to be the same.- Jillian Somers, Events and Tourism Moncton
"We've had really, really great sunny weather. We've had really awesome temperatures, August is looking to be the same," she said.
"So we know that's a factor, of course it's going to be especially with outdoor attractions. So that's been working in our favour."
In Saint John, Ray Gracewood, president and committee chair of the Area 506 festival, called this year "a massive success."
He estimated up to 50,000 people attended the festival last weekend, with just under 7,000 people at both ticketed evening shows.
"We saw a roughly 50 per cent increase in people that went into the ticketed show," he said. "In terms of flow-through traffic through the two days, we'd say we probably tripled the overall size."
Checkmarks on the bucket list
The tourist season also started earlier than usual, said Gillian Nadeay, owner of Saint John tour company Uncorked, and manager of a local tour desk.
She's noticed a lot of people from New Brunswick taking overnight or day trips.
But there's also people arriving in the region to check off an item on their Maritime travel bucket list, or to take in events related to the Canada 150 celebrations, she said.
"And I think that's drawing a pretty large group of people from even Maine, but also across the Maritimes," she said, adding that some of the "road-tripping families" travel anywhere between two and six weeks.
One of those road trippers, Dimitri Latulippe, said he's travelling to Moncton and Halifax from Saint Jerome, Que., after spending some time in St. Stephen, N.B., earlier this week.
His children are big hockey fans and he wanted to tour the Maritimes, "so we are going from one city to the other and looking for the arenas," he said.
Angela Eagles, a Fredericton resident, meanwhile stuck around Saint John after dropping her daughter off at the airport.
She said they often stay overnight, to check out the boardwalk and the beach, but also because they like "seeing the difference in cities."
With files from Matthew Bingley