Nfld. & Labrador

Icebergs, low loonie mean boost for tourism operators

The operators of three tourism businesses in rural Newfoundland say their bookings are up for 2016, with visitors coming because of the low dollar and in search of icebergs.

From tip of Northern Peninsula to Trinity Bay, bookings are up for 2016

Images such as this near St. Anthony are what keep the tourists coming, according to businesses who say bookings are way up this year. (Paul Alcock, Northland Discovery Boat Tours)

The operators of three tourism businesses in rural Newfoundland say their bookings are up for 2016, with iceberg-hunting visitors coming because of the low dollar and in response to tourism ads.

Terry Hedderson owns the Daily Catch Restaurant and Hedderson's Fish Market and store in St. Lunaire-Griquet, on the tip of the Northern Peninsula.

"I don't normally open til June 10, but this year we've been open since May," he told the St. John's Morning Show Wednesday.

"I think it is the loonie against the American dollar. It's made a difference. We've seen a lot more American travellers, and more Canadian travellers, especially from B.C. and that area."

Hedderson said he may to hire more staff to keep up.

A sunset over the Anglican Church hall in St. Lunaire-Griquet. People are looking for a "rural experience" says the operator of a local restaurant.

It's a similar story on Little Bay Islands, where Sharlene Hinz runs Aunt Edna's Boarding House Bed and Breakfast.

I think Newfoundland, it's becoming trendy. It's the place to visit now.- Terry Hedderson

Her numbers are the highest they've ever been, with most of her guests coming from Ontario and B.C.

"They're way up. I'm already booked full to the end of June and bookings right through to the end of September," she said, with people drawn to the area by stories in the Globe and Mail and on CBC about resettlement.

"We've been getting a lot of press and we're still getting a lot of press," she said.

Mainland newspapers like the Globe and Mail have covered the resettlement debate on Little Bay Islands and that has attracted new visitors, according to a B&B operator. (Daniel Rumbolt/Facebook)

In the bustling village of Trinity, Marika Gow is a second generation tourism operator who manages the Artisan Inn and Twine Loft.

After 25 years, her family business has expanded from a two-bedroom inn to eight properties. And by January, it was 75 per cent booked up for this year.

"What I'm finding is that people are pre-booking more ... People are learning that they have to book ahead of time, so we started getting our bookings for this season in the summer of 2015," she said.

"October and September are starting to fill up now, and we're starting to field calls for 2017."

'Trendy' destination, 'outport experience'

Gow said the low loonie is a factor, with Americans hunting for a bargain vacation. Canadians who opted not to go south in the spring are also coming east. 

She said more locals are vacationing at home as well, because the economy is bad and not as many people are working in Alberta.

It's been building and building for the last five years, and all of a sudden - boom!- Sharlene Hinz

Hedderson said travellers are also reacting to the province's tourism ads. He thinks people want to come to "outport Newfoundland and Labrador" not St. John's.

"I think Newfoundland, it's becoming trendy. It's the place to visit now."

Trinity has a well-established tourism industry, with plenty of entertainment offered such as Rising Tide's theatre pageant.

"I think it's a mushroom effect. It's been building and building for the last five years," said Hinz. "We've got people coming and liking it. They're seeing the ads, we're delivering and they're going back and telling people so it's building, building, boom. This year, we've really seen it."

All three agree that the bumper crop of icebergs in 2015 and again this year are a big draw as well, as chronicled by travel writers for the New York Times and Washington Post.

The 2015 iceberg season was amazing, say tourism operators, and this year is looking good too. (Submitted by Jennifer Power)

Marika Gow said more of her clients are younger, seeking an adventure destination, but most are "the 55-plus crowd" and a lot come from Ontario, where the Newfoundland and Labrador government targets its ads.

The province is also seen as a safe place, she said.

"You know if people have to choose from potentially getting Zika [virus] if they go to South America. There's a lot of unrest in Europe. Suddenly putting on your winter jacket in June doesn't seem like the worst thing that can happen on vacation."

With files from St. John's Morning Show

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