Come From Away effect: Big Apple residents want bite of N.L., says tourism operator

A local tourism operator says the province should capitalize on the interest piqued by the Broadway production of Come From Away, and have direct flights to New York.

Jill Curran says she'd like to see direct flights to New York to capitalize on the interest

The owner of Newfoundland's Maxxim Vacations says her booth was extra popular at this year's New York Times Travel Show, which she credits in large part to the Come From Away Broadway musical. (Twitter/@maxximvacations)

A Newfoundland tourism operator says the province should carve out a flight path south of the border to tap into its potential to draw visitors. 

Jill Curran, owner of Maxxim Vacations and Lighthouse Picnics, says she'd like to see a direct return flight to New York City or New Jersey, where she said the landscape has completely changed since Come From Away, a show about Gander, N.L.'s response during attacks on the World Trade Center, premiered on Broadway.

Jill Curran is the owner of Maxxim Vacations and Lighthouse Picnics. (CBC)

Curran said the loss of a seasonal WestJet flight from St. John's to London's Gatwick Airport — criticized by some as a damper on tourism — won't have a big impact on her business, since most of her customers are from the United States or Canada.

​Curran and some of her staff were recently in New York City for the annual New York Times Travel Show, where she said the response at her booth this year gives her a lot of optimism about the tourism product that Newfoundland and Labrador offers.

"I think we are so, so fortunate. We're ahead in so many areas in our experiential tourism product," she told CBC Radio's On The Go. "There is a lot of opportunities to grow the marketplace."

Somewhere, in the middle of nowhere

At the Maxxim booth this year, Curran included a small logo for the Come from Away production, which she said drew countless people who had seen the show and wanted to know more about Canada's most eastern province.

"This year, the Come From Away story added a whole new element to our awareness and the market's awareness of us as a destination," she said.

"We were all feeling very overwhelmed, extremely proud and the recognition of our province through that show in that marketplace was just unbelievable."

Come From Away, the musical about 7,000 passengers being stranded in Gander, N.L, on Sept. 11, 2001, has helped put an international spotlight on Newfoundland and Labrador in the last few years. (Matthew Murphy/The Canadian Press)

Curran has been in regular contact with airlines and the St. John's Airport Authority about her experiences in the hopes they anticipate a spike in demand and bring a direct flight back to the New York area.

"I think this was monumental in the number of interested parties we had this year as opposed to other years," Curran said.

"We're poised in our industry to see great things over the coming years and see a lot of growth for sure."

With files from On The Go