Nfld. & Labrador

Summer visitors key to survival for tourist operators, after money-losing winter

Some businesses on the west coast, especially those that depend on tourists, lost a lot of money this winter and owners say the key to sales this upcoming summer season is a combination of local support and Canadian travel.

Businesses that depend on tourism didn't make much money on the west coast this year.

Joe Dicks, owner of Marble Inn Resort says he lost a lot of money this past winter when Marble Mountain was closed. He hopes for plenty of tourists this summer to boost sales. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Some businesses on Newfoundland's west coast — especially those that depend on tourists — lost a lot of money this winter. That's why owners say the key the coming summer season will be a combination of local support and Canadian travel.

"When Marble Mountain is open, we are full. That's how it works here," said Joe Dicks, owner of Marble Inn Resort across the street from the mountain.

Dicks closed his restaurant, hotel, condos and spa for most of the winter, because of mild temperatures and COVID-19 health restrictions that delayed Marble Mountain's opening date.

"We went from full last weekend to virtually nothing the weekend before that, and the weekend before that," said Dicks, adding that his company's losses have been mounting. 

Dicks says the only way he will recover and make up losses that top $300,000 is if the Atlantic bubble opens, flights start landing at the Deer Lake Airport again, and tourists start thinking of his business and the Humber Valley area as a vacation destination.

He offers kayak rentals and fishing tours in the summer months and he's already had a few inquires from the Atlantic Canadian region.

The condos at Marble Inn Resort are full now that Marble Mountain is open, but they were closed most of the winter months. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

"It's not about [having] just a restaurant but a restaurant scene. When you think about tourism, it's not just renting kayaks and taking people fishing, it's about an outdoor theme," he said. 

"That's what the region needs to do, is develop themes and then get out there and make this place a holiday destination."

'A foggy crystal ball at best'

Sixteen kilometres west of Marble Mountain sits a long line of colourful chalets, tucked into the woods on the outskirts of Corner Brook. Appalachian Chalets and RV owner Allan Kendall agrees that tourists have to arrive and spend money on the west coast this summer in order for business to continue.

"It's hard to plan. A crystal ball but it's a foggy crystal ball at best," Kendall said.

Allan Kendall owns Appalachian Chalets and RV in Corner Brook. He says his business needs local support to continue operating this summer. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

When the province went into lockdown, Kendall lost a lot of east coast business and switched his business plan. He traded out tourists for rotational workers who were looking to isolate, work and then snowmobile in their spare time. 

The restaurant, Wayward Spruce, hasn't done well because of the lock downs and capacity restrictions. He also kept chalet rental rates down much lower than he would like, anything to get through this winter.

"We've got that much invested in it now, we have to put our head's down and get it done," he said.

The City of Corner Brook offered local businesses a tax break this year, to help with all the COVID-19 health restrictions, but Kendall says the maximum $1000 break for up to two months wasn't much of a help for him.

Kendall is banking on the Atlantic bubble to make money this summer.

But he's also pushing people who live in Corner Brook and the surrounding area to eat at his restaurant and park their trailer at his RV park, because summer tourism is so uncertain.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colleen Connors reports on western Newfoundland from CBC's bureau in Corner Brook.

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