One Year After Now or Never
NOTE: The following is an op-ed piece from Nova Scotia Tourism Agency CEO Patrick Sullivan.
A year ago, the Now or Never report was released. The report recognized the importance of tourism and its role in our economy. Its anniversary gives us a chance to reflect on our progress and the work ahead.
The Nova Scotia Tourism Agency was created in 2012 to work with industry to grow tourism in Nova Scotia. In this short time there has been progress.
In 2013, we launched a five-year strategy that was supported by government, industry and tourism stakeholders across the province. In fact, the Now or Never report identified the tourism strategy as one of seven exemplary initiatives.
The Now or Never report also identified a very specific goal -- double tourism revenues in 10 years to close to $4 billion.
As Nova Scotia's leading source of service sector exports, tourism employs 24,000 people. That's one in 20 Nova Scotians in communities across the province. No doubt, growing tourism will have a positive impact on our economy.
This past year I heard from many operators and they told me that 2014 was a better year: a five per cent increase in accommodation revenues, and the largest increase in room nights sold in one year since 2002, at over 62,000 more rooms.
As of November 2014, room nights sold in Nova Scotia generated $285 million, a $13-million increase, compared with the same period in 2013. This doesn't include spending on food, entertainment or attractions, which we know has increased.
This growth is good for everyone, and it's a great first step. Our current strategy will get us part of the way there, but we must refine the strategy if we are to meet the challenging oneNS goal.
To help do that, the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency board and senior leadership engaged Michele McKenzie, a former deputy minister of Tourism here in Nova Scotia and president of the Canadian Tourism Commission, to look at what it would take to reach the $4-billion goal.
We then presented a strategy to the oneNS Coalition in January. This strategy, which we believe will grow tourism, clarifies roles and responsibilities, and provides recommendations for change.
To double tourism revenues in 10 years, the agency must attract more first-time visitors who stay longer and spend more. We will do this by focusing on world-class experiences and working with the private sector to support initiatives that attract these visitors.
Industry must close the sale, pre-trip and during the visit, drive repeat visitation, invest in their product and deliver world-class experiences.
Government must align policies to support the $4-billion goal. This will guide community economic development, the attraction of inward investment and investment in infrastructure.
Finally, communities across the province must work with industry to deliver destination development and marketing, and lead visitor servicing in their regions.
So what does this mean in practical terms? For the agency it means investing in markets that are farther away, like western and central Canada, northeastern United States and western Europe, as well as newer markets like China. It also means aligning our resources with our strategic objectives while making evidence-based decisions. We will continue to implement our strategy, monitor the province's tourism performance and report our progress to Nova Scotians as we move forward.
To achieve this goal we know that we will all need to work together. Now we need to get started.