Nfld. & Labrador

Loss of London-direct flight bad for tourism, say critics

The loss of WestJet's direct flight to London will be bad for tourism, say a local restaurateur and travel writer.

'If people can't get here, what's the point of 'em seeing an ad?'

Travel writer Melissa Hogan says the loss of WestJet's direct-to-London flight means St. John's travellers will have to spend either more time or more money — or choose a different flight altogether. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The loss of WestJet's seasonal direct flight to London will be bad for tourism, say a local restaurateur and travel writer.

Blogger Melissa Hogan said her reaction to the announcement was "immediate disappointment."

"I was planning some trips in the fall and that was like the cornerstone of my trip, was I'll book my flight to London, and from there I can go explore Europe, just because it's so easy, so convenient."

It was great, and now they're taking it away. It's hard once you've had it to lose it.- Melissa Hogan

The change means people travelling out of St. John's to London will have to spend either "more time or more money" to get there. Air Canada offers a direct flight that's more expensive, she said, so more budget-conscious travellers who still want to go to London will have to choose between spending more money or first flying from St. John's to Halifax, which is where the London-direct flight is moving.

Hogan, who writes about her travel experiences in her blog Suitcase and Heels, worries losing the direct flight will hurt Newfoundland and Labrador tourism, and says it makes things more inconvenient for people here looking to go to London. She says she knows at least one couple who have decided to go to Dublin, to which there's still a seasonal direct flight, instead.

Mallard Cottage owner Todd Perrin says marketing the province as a tourism destination is pointless if there aren't flights to bring people here. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

"We had this direct flight, it was great, and now they're taking it away. It's hard once you've had it to lose it."

Todd Perrin, owner of Quidi Vidi restaurant Mallard Cottage, agreed that it's a blow to tourism.

"The future of Newfoundland tourism depends on as many and varied access points as we can get," he said. "One of the issues that we have is that there's more people trying to get here than can get here in the peak times of the year. Basically it's a door closing to Newfoundland and Labrador."

More business, less PR

Every time a door closes, the province loses an opportunity to build the industry, he said.

​"God love the government, the government has done a lot of work, and we all love to tout their marketing campaign and we're winning awards and we're doing all that kind of stuff," he said.

"I think it's time for government to spend more time looking at tourism as a business, and less of it as a PR opportunity. It's all well and good to market, but if people can't get here, what's the point of 'em seeing an ad?"

Tourism Minister Christopher Mitchelmore downplayed the significance of the flight moving to Halifax. He said WestJet made a financial decision based on passenger movement and business incentives.

Tourism Minister Christopher Mitchelmore says WestJet made a business decision to move a London-direct flight to Halifax. (CBC)

"We do have the year-round Air Canada flight to London, and a seasonal flight with WestJet to Dublin that has been ongoing for some time."

"We are seeing traffic coming from a visitation point of view from the U.K., and we'll continue to be in the market because it is returning dividends to us in that form," he said, adding that this province is a small marketplace, especially compared with Nova Scotia, which has a broader regional population to draw on within just a couple of hours' driving distance.

'Not good enough'

The province can't just shrug its collective shoulders, said Perrin, not when there's still so much room for tourism to grow.

"That flight didn't get cancelled. It got moved. It's gone to Halifax now. So they're reaping the benefit of other people's work. We shouldn't stand for that," he said.

"I would love to see the government come out strongly and say, 'Look, this is not good enough.' It's not well enough to say, oh, it's a private business and they couldn't make a go of it. If we said that right across Newfoundland and Labrador, we would have shut down a long time ago."

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