Northern Peninsula needs to spark interest: group

Cory Hurley
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The Viking Trail Tourism Association is looking at new product and marketing initiatives to spark what they feel is a slumping tourism industry.

An unidentified actor in period costume hauls a hand cart at Norstead, a recreation of a Norse village run by the Viking Trail Tourism Association near L'Answe aux Meadows.

Barbe Genge, chairwoman of the tourist group, says the majority of the Northern Peninsula is experiencing a drop in tourist traffic in recent years. While she says Gros Morne National Park recorded 180,000 visits last year, the Norstead site in L’Anse aux Meadows only saw approximately 25,000. She also said the ferry from Labrador transported 80,000 people across to the island.

While it seems people are entering the Northern Peninsula, Genge say they have to find ways to get them to stay and take advantage of the unique product the respective communities have to offer. She says there is a strong need to expand on the product available, create additional attractions, but also to market the region more.

The Northern Peninsula falls under the umbrella of the Western Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), which is a setup Genge said has expectedly seen a drop in marketing funds to the region. Since the Northern Peninsula is one piece of the whole western region, she says they are competing with other areas for what is available. While she said some companies have received provincial and/or federal funding for marketing, it is not the same as promoting the entire region as a package.

She said partnerships are key to turning things around and availing of what the provincial government does have to offer to the region for tourism.

“We need to build partnerships and linkages, and you can’t do it without money,” she said. “Money is what runs the engine. You have to buy the fuel that runs the engine. If we don’t have the money to do that, you are going to be stuck where you are and you are not going anywhere.”

Businesses in the area have begun implementing a three per cent accommodation tax to help raise funds for marketing and product development. It began last year with three local business and it has increased to nine this year. Genge said it is slowly growing.

“People hesitate to do stuff, but you can’t hesitate to take care of yourself,” she said. “If you don’t see this as a business, as a businessperson, you are not going to be there. This is business and, if you don’t market, you won’t have a business.”

“Until the people in Canada and the United States figure out you can drive all the way from Seven Islands (Sept-Iles) to Blanc-Sablon and take a ferry ride across to Newfoundland without the big hassle, it will continue,” Barbe Genge on problems with Marine Atlantic affecting tourism

Genge said there have been successes through the partnership with the Western DMO have, such as the Iceberg Festival. To see more success, she said the local association has to do more for themselves.

She also said the Marine Atlantic ferry service is holding tourism back for everybody in the province.

“Until the people in Canada and the United States figure out you can drive all the way from Seven Islands (Sept-Iles) to Blanc-Sablon and take a ferry ride across to Newfoundland without the big hassle, it will continue,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mike Clewer, executive director of the Western DMO, said he didn’t feel slighted by comments made by Genge or the effort to increase product development and marketing on the Northern Peninsula. In fact, he applauded the initiative, encouraged other groups to do likewise and said it would make the organization’s efforts that much easier.

In terms of how the organization is helping the tourism industry on the Northern Peninsula, he said there is a balance of what it is able to do for the entire region.

“We have limited resources, both financially and in human terms, and we try and do the best we can, which is to work with groups like that which are trying to help themselves,” Clewer said.

He said the DMO will never be able to provide everything each region desires or duplicate their passion, but he said the Northern Peninsula is one of the areas which receives the most attention. With the natural product offered on the Northern Peninsula, he said that is what media and consumer tour personnel are coming to see.

This summer, the DMO has increased its familiarization tours to nearly 40, of which Clewer said nearly half are on the Northern Peninsula.

“I think there’s such a lot of cause for optimism in respect to what this tourism board and what it’s vision is all about,” he said. “We hope to be able to work very will with this group moving forward.”

The  Western Star

Organizations: Western DMO, Western Destination Marketing Organization, Marine Atlantic

Geographic location: Northern Peninsula, Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park L’Anse Canada United States Sept-Iles Blanc-Sablon Western Star

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