Around 30 people connected with the tourism sector in the Bay of Islands showed up for an opportunities session in Corner Brook Wednesday.
The session was the fourth such event Go Western Newfoundland, the region’s destination management organization, has hosted throughout the west coast.
The purpose of the sessions is for tourism operators and others involved in the industry — including government agencies, funding partners and marketing experts — to get to know one another and discuss ways in which they can help grow the sector.
The next session is scheduled for Deer Lake today.
Sessions are also being planned for Stephenville and Port aux Basques for the fall, but no dates have been set yet.
Here is a little of what some of the attendees at the Corner Brook session had to say about their enterprise and the industry in general.
Alan Sheppard, owner of Capt. Cook Cottages and B and B in Lark Harbour expressed some concerns about infrastructure needs on the south shore of the Bay of Islands, including fixing the highway damaged by a major rainstorm in January and the need for more public washroom facilities at the various hiking trail areas.
“That’s a big thing in our area,” he said. “We have good washrooms in all our cabins, but for the people who are just travelling our roads (and who) we never see … that’ a big problem we have.”
Mark Lamswood, executive director of Go Western, said it is crucial for tourism operators and folks offering accommodations to be properly licensed and accredited so they can be recommended by tourism marketing entities.
“When we’re dealing with people and are at appointments looking the travel trade in the eye, we are not going to recommend anybody we are not comfortable with,” said Lamswood. “I can guarantee you, that industry partners and players that are really keen and know the difference, they’re not going to want to partner with you either, until you are market-ready and travel trade-ready.”
Photographer Wendy Nutall, who sells her images for tourism marketing purposes, said it is important for tour operators to get promotional material to those who stay at the bed and breakfasts, hotels, motes and RV parks.
“If you’re on the island for more than one day, you’re going to sleep somewhere,” she said of the rationale for doing so.
Eric Bourgeois is a partner in Everoutdoor Adventures, which hopes to start offering guided tour packages in the Bay of Islands area this summer. He said areas such as the Serpentine River Valley, which he suggested is even more interesting than Gros Morne, are hidden gems just waiting to be explored by tourists.
“It’s a little off the beaten path, which I like,” he said of the Serpentine area. “It’s a little harder to get to, which makes it a little more interesting … If you have not been there, go there.”
Sheppard was happy to hear about the plans Everoutdoor Adventures has because he would like to direct his guests to do some of the things Everoutdoor is planning to do.
“To hear what you and your partners are going to do is music to our ears because we have nowhere to send them,” Sheppard told Bourgeois. “How many people want to go sea kayaking? How many want to go sea-dooing? How many want to go (on a backcountry adventure)? So many people want to do this stuff and I’m so glad you’re going to do it.”
Melissa Young of Rugged Edge said her company’s sales of snowmobiles and ATVs and other gear was down a little this year, but the guided tours side of the business was great.
“The one bright light for this year was tourism for us because it just continues to build,” she said. “It’s a positive area we’re all sort of building on and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Richard Wells, sales and marketing manager at Marble Mountain, said the facility is still working on its plan to be developed into a four-season resort.
“It’s no secret we need to develop a four-season operation at Marble Mountain and I can assure you that its coming,” he said. “The private sector will be involved and, at that point, there is going to be a lot of base area infrastructure developed. So, exciting times are certainly coming for Marble Mountain.’