Thousands more visitors flocking to Nova Scotia this year

Tourists are flocking to national parks and national historic sites across Nova Scotia.

Parks Canada, Tourism Nova Scotia report increase in visitors

The Cape Breton Highlands National Park saw an increase of 20 per cent in visitors from May to the end of July this year compared with the same period last year. (novascotia.com)

Tourism operators in Nova Scotia are reporting a booming year for business.

And the provincial tourism department's findings support the anecdotal reports of tour operators and inn owners, with a reported eight per cent increase in visitors from January to June compared with last year.

Paul Stackhouse, the owner of Hillsdale House Inn in Annapolis Royal, says this year is shaping up to be his best ever.

This is Stackhouse's 12th season welcoming guests to the inn and helping organize whale watching tours in the area. He believes the exchange rate may be deterring some Canadians from crossing the border to the south.

"To a certain extent, that's probably keeping Canadians at home because it's a little more expensive to travel, particularly again to the United States."

The relative safety of Canada is likely another factor, Stackhouse said.

"You know, Canada has a pretty good reputation in terms of being a secure, safe place to visit."

Brisk business

Andy Smith owns and operates Tattle Tours, which specializes in walking tours. He said business has been brisk. He's seen at least five to 10 per cent more visitors this year.

The number of visitors to Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site jumped by 49 per cent from May to the end of July this year compared with the same period last year. (CBC)

"With the combination of cruise ship activity and just in general, Canadians, Americans and Europeans coming to Nova Scotia, there's been a surprising increase in the activity and the traffic," said Smith.

Smith said the biggest surprise has been the popularity of Peggys Cove. While he admits the bump has been good for business, getting through the crowds is not always easy for a walking tour guide.

"Peggys Cove right now is an extremely, extremely busy place to go, which has pluses and minuses. And in terms of navigating through the village, it's actually challenging."

Parks, national historic sites popular

Statistics from both the federal and provincial governments confirm that more people chose to travel to Nova Scotia this year.

Parks Canada says there was a surge in tourism from May to the end of July compared with the same period last year.

The number of visitors to Kejimkujik National Park jumped by 49 per cent during that period, from 16,854 visitors in 2016 to 25,071 in 2017. Cape Breton Highlands National Park saw a bump of 20 per cent, from 140,967 visitors in 2016 to 169,229 in 2017.

Halifax Citadel saw a 67 per cent increase in the number of people visiting from May to the end of July this year compared with the same period last year. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Tourists also flocked to national historic sites this year. Halifax Citadel saw the biggest surge, with 67 per cent more people visiting from May to the end of July. Parks Canada is expecting more than 200,000 people to go through the gate at the Citadel by the end of the season.

Other national historic sites in Nova Scotia have also seen increases:

  • Fort Anne National Historic Site: +22%
  • Port-Royal National Historic Site: +43%
  • Grand-Pré National Historic Site: +37%
  • Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site: +41%
  • Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site: +33%

As part of Canada's sesquicentennial celebrations, Parks Canada offered free passes to national parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites in 2017.

Boost in visitors

Tourism Nova Scotia is also reporting an increase in visitors. The province received 228,100 non-resident overnight visitors this June, an increase of 11 per cent from last year's 205,500.

From the beginning of the year to the end of June, the number of visitors jumped by eight per cent, from 788,000 in 2016 to 851,000 this year.

Most of this year's bump in tourism is coming from Canada — specifically Atlantic Canada — with 26,000 more Atlantic Canadians visiting the province from January to June compared to that period last year.

Those living in Ontario are also choosing to take their vacation in Nova Scotia in greater numbers, with 25,000 more visiting. One thousand more Quebecers visited and 4,000 more Western Canadians visited. Visitors from the United States increased by 6,000 and people coming from overseas markets increased by 1,000.