Although he has been minister of tourism, culture and recreation for just three months, Terry French says there has been little to surprise him since taking over the portfolio.
"I knew our industry was growing. I didn't realize, probably, the commitment from the industry," he said following a lunch-hour speech at Hotel Gander Feb. 19.
"Our tourism board is working exceptionally well, and it's because industry and government and regional operators are working together. It's an $850-million industry, and we've got to keep growing."
French took part in Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador's (HNL) Lookout! Tourism Summit.
Over the last three months, the minister said he has been catching up on the major issues, and still has much to learn.
He made a commitment to realizing the goals of Uncommon Potential, the vision put together by the provincial government and HNL that aims for tourism revenues in Newfoundland and Labrador to double by 2020.
"I'm committed to ensuring we maximize the benefits of tourism, and I'm committed to working with you to find solutions to issues of common concern."
Over the last six years of Tory rule, French noted the tourism budget has climbed from $6 million to $13 million.
Non-resident visitation has grown by 13 per cent, he said, citing government figures, adding that visitation in other provinces has declined over the same period.
In 2009, French said the province managed to show a one per cent increase in non-resident visits - a remarkable achievement, he added, given the pressures exerted on the global economy by the recession.
During his speech to those who attended the Friday luncheon, French touted the government's aggressive marketing campaign, which has been handled by the award-winning St. John's firm Target Marketing.
"There's rarely a day that goes by where I don't get an e-mail complimenting the ad, from as far off as Australia."
Last month, a new television spot was launched as part of that campaign. The piece, called Ancient Land, was shown during the luncheon.
One thing the minister said he would like to see more of is the regions of the province coming together on tourism.
"When people come to Newfoundland and Labrador, the average stay is usually nine to 11 days. We've got to offer them a product, and most communities can't sustain a nine-to-11-day visit. But, if we can package a region, certainly we can show people all over the world what beautiful regions we have in this province. It's not always about the bigger centres."
To do this, he said, the government will look to work more closely with the destination marketing organizations, including Adventure Central.
"We must ensure regional marketing efforts are in line with our provincial branding."
French also touched on transportation issues, and said the government is working with Marine Atlantic to improve its service.
A new air access strategy and action to address the summer vehicle rental problem are also in the works, he said. The preliminary findings of a study on the latter subject were presented during the tourism summit.
"We are willing to work with you to address your concerns, but ultimately, we must move forward for the benefit of the entire industry."