Tourism in Cape Breton is already heating up for next summer
Snow is in the air and ice on the beaches, but accommodation bookings are already up
Cape Breton tourism operators say they're seeing a bump in numbers for 2017 — even better than last year's great numbers.
"We're running significantly ahead of this time last year," said Graham Hudson, general manager of the Keltic Lodge and Highland Links Golf Course in Ingonish, N.S..
"Our bookings are quite strong, our weddings are way up, golf is up, and all in all, everything is way up. We're pretty happy."
Hudson estimates business is up 25 per cent compared to 2016.
Tourism across Nova Scotia last year was the best in more than a decade, with 2.2 million people visiting from outside the province, an increase of eight per cent from 2015.
It was the third consecutive year of growth.
Kim Cameron manages the Markland Coastal Beach Cottages in Dingwall near the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. She thinks Canada 150 celebrations are helping.
"We are definitely booking up and getting a lot of phone calls with inquiries about the Cabot Trail and about the free passes that are along for this year through Parks Canada," said Cameron.
The millions of passes being given out by Parks Canada allow visitors to enter all national parks free of charge.
There are three in Cape Breton: The Fortress of Louisbourg, The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck, and the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
"I think it's definitely a bonus for the tourists," said Cameron. "I don't think it's the main reason they're travelling, but I do think it definitely inspires them to spend more time."
Cameron said the strong American dollar may also be contributing to the boost.
In terms of the "Trump Bump" that many say affected last year's numbers, Hudson said it's difficult to know.
"It's just so hard to know, but we'll take it, if that's what it is," said Hudson.
While attending several golf trade shows in Ontario, Hudson said he heard from many golfers that they're planning to stay in Canada.
"They said, 'We used to cross the border to go golfing, but we're going east or we're going west this year.' So we're obviously getting some of that," said Hudson.