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Boosting Western Newfoundland's Tourism Appeal

Gudie Hutchings
MP Gudie Hutchings (Long Range Mountains) is the Minister for Rural and Economic Development and ACOA. - File photo

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

SOUTHWEST COAST — On Friday, Feb. 2, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) announced an investment of $624,159 to enhance infrastructure and strengthen the tourism industry on the West coast. This funding is for six tourism-related projects in Western Newfoundland, and among those receiving non-repayable financial contributions are: Western NL DMO Inc. (Go Western), Town of Cow Head, Gros Morne Co-operating Association, Corner Brook Stream Development Corporation, Town of Humber Arm South, and Corner Brook Port Corporation.

“We know the tourism potential in Newfoundland and Labrador, especially in Western Newfoundland and Labrador. When you look at the fact that Prince Edward island gets 1.2 million tourists and the whole of Newfoundland gets over half a million, there's a lot of work we can do. So we have the assets, we've got beautiful landscape, we've got friendly people. Now we've got to make sure we have the product to entice more and more people here,” said Gudie Hutchings, Minister of Rural Economic Development and Minister of ACOA.

“ACOA's door is always open for varying programs. These folks would have applied, they would have gone through a rigorous application process and assessment from ACOA, and then they were awarded this. So one of the programs the funds came through was the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation — Reggie, as we call it — or the Innovative Community Funds. So it helps businesses scale up and expand and get into new markets, and then the innovative community funds helps develop sectors and strengthen rural areas.”

Showing tourists what is available to them in NL will help entice more.

“The province has won awards for their marketing. You know, like this week's announcement that WestJet is coming back into Deer Lake and with whatever Mr. Dymond is going to do with Stephenville Airport, it's access getting in here, but it's also showing people why you should come here. If people are wherever in the world, okay, what is there for me to do with my kids? What is there for me to do if I'm bringing my mother and she's in a wheelchair? What is there for me to do if it's a rainy day? What is there for me to do in the fall? Because I don't want to come when it's really busy in the summer. I'm a great winter fan. What is there for me to do in the winter? So we all need to work together to grow our product so that when people are putting their options on the board — we have this wonderful thing called the World Wide Web, which is a source of information for folks — so we need to make sure that our information is up there so that when people are choosing, where do I go in the world,” said Hutchings.

“It's like, wow, I really need to get to this place called Newfoundland and Labrador. People are looking for quality experiences. They're looking to see stuff and experience things that they haven't before. They're looking for quality accommodations. They're looking for good local food, and they're looking for healthy food, so let's make sure that we're growing in a way and we have the real assets. Let's make sure we show all this to grow our tourism sector.”

No organizations on the Southwest Coast received ACOA funding.

“ACOA does over 3,000 projects a year in Atlantic Canada. I'm always doing announcements. We just bundle a bit together. People are going to see me bundle another group together. Sometimes people don't want us to announce their project. That's up to them if they don't want the project announced. These people had no problem with us announcing it, and most of that information would be online. But, we've done projects from the tip of the Northern Peninsula way all the way down to Burgeo and Rose Blanche. I know there was funding in the Rose Blanche lighthouse last year. There's a lot of money that's gone into the area, and ACOA supported a lot of businesses during Fiona,” said Hutchings. 

Last November, ACOA provided $644,000 through ACOA’s Innovative Communities Fund (ICF) for the CVADA (Codroy Valley Area Development Association) to expand the Starlite Trail.

“If you look at the funding in Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador gets their share, but of course, people have to apply. That is the secret,” said Hutchings. “So reach out to the local ACOA offices or reach out to my constituency offices. There's a ton of information online, and trust me, the people that know about ACOA know how to use them and know how to apply, know who their account managers are.”

Even though the funding through ACOA didn’t reach the Southwest coast this go around, Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology, Andrew Parsons, announced $37,526 in funding for Tourism Southwest through the Business Development Support Program.

The Provincial Government’s contribution joins the $53,994 investment from Tourism Southwest for a total investment of $91,520 and the strategy will support Tourism Southwest’s efforts to raise the profile of the Southwest Coast, along with the region’s local businesses and tourism operators.

“Basically Tourism Southwest — which everybody knows is basically like a network of different tourism operators — they applied to us under what we call the business development support program. So we all know that as a tourism destination, the Southwest coast is beautiful and very unique and has a hell of a lot to offer. So what we've done is we're working with them to help bring about their three-year marketing and communications plan. So this is just meant to go to them to help them to get this done and continue to spread the word, essentially,” said Parsons.

The Southwest coast, known as the gateway to Newfoundland, is the first impression for many travelers coming into the province.

“The people coming and going to our province are right next to it. So we have the proximity, but then when you look at what we have to offer in terms of beaches, trails, scenery, wetlands, mountains, ocean, there's so many different things. It is just so naturally beautiful, and so again, what we need to do though is to continue to work on capitalizing on that and ensuring that, again, we've got to work with operators. They know the business, they make the business, and what we have to do is to help them to spread the word about what they're doing. I think in turn that helps to stimulate more opportunity,” said Parsons.

“It's a competition for people's, for their tourism dollars. There are so many places that a person can go. So we have to do what we can to market ourselves, to be in that competition, and that's not just on a national or international basis, that's also on a provincial basis. I mean, the province as a whole has so much to offer, so we have to differentiate ourselves, and again, to make it known what we have there.”

The international attention received from the recent shipwreck discovery is just one of the many wonders that can be found on the Southwest coast.

“I think there's a mystique when it comes to shipwrecks, just when you wonder about the history behind the vessel, what happened, I mean, there's certainly a little bit of mystery. The fact that we've got one there and the fact that it was captured so beautifully, Corey Purchase’s pictures and video were just amazing,” said Parsons.

“I don't think we have just one thing. I think we have a combination of different factors from Rose Blanche – Harbour Le Cou right on all the way up to the Codroy Valley. Whether it's the Harvey Trail or whether it's Starlight, which we've been doing some work on, or just the Trans Canada trail itself,- which is something that we're also trying to work on, which is improving opportunities there. I mean, there's a lot of a lot of interest for people that want to come to our province on ATVs and side by sides and things like that. That's where they're going to start their journey.”

This funding will allow Tourism Southwest (TSW) to continue the implementation of a multi-year marketing strategy that has seen development of a new website and social media presence, branding, development of short videos to use in social media and a partnership with the Western Destination Management Organization on ad campaigns and attendance at trade shows. Tourism Southwest issued a news release which outlined exactly what the funding would be used for.

In addition to trade shows throughout the country, the funds will be used to develop promotional videos, advertising materials in tourism magazines, print products  including maps, and advertising signage and even targeted social media campaigns.


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