Talk about tourism

Dave Bartlett
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CEO of Destination St. John’s says visitors come for ‘uncommon’ experience

Cathy Duke, chief executive officer of Destination St. John’s, addresses the weekly luncheon meeting of the Rotary Club of St. John’s at the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland Thursday afternoon, focusing on tourist visitation trends and the ongoing economic activities in the capital city region. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

While there are many reasons why tourists flock to this province, the CEO of Destination St. John’s says one of the main reasons people come is because the place is exotic and offers “uncommon experiences” people can’t find anywhere else.

Cathy Duke was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club of St. John’s luncheon Thursday.

“The tourism industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is growing exponentially,” she told club members. “It’s a very hot destination.”

Duke said in 2010, more than 500,000 non-residents visited the province, about as many people who live here full-time.

She said even when the economy went south in 2009, tourism was still up by about one per cent over the previous year in Newfoundland and Labrador.

During the same time, Duke said, Quebec saw its tourism numbers drop by 20 per cent. She said tourism brings in about $400 million a year into the local economy and Duke largely credited provincial tourism ads for bolstering the numbers.

Duke said people come here for a genuine experience which is off the beaten path — where you can expect the unexpected.

And they come to have close encounters with nature, culture and the unique characters who live here.

Duke said the province has stopped trying to be Disney World north, and is instead showcasing the reality of the place.

Other provinces are following Newfoundland and Labrador’s lead, trying to mimic its successful advertising campaign, she said.

Duke noted this province’s tourism ads have won more than 130 awards. While the provincial ads largely focus on rural areas, it’s the job of Destination St. John’s to sell the city, and that’s why it’s produced its own ads.

“We do want to feature nature and culture and people but we also want our visitors to understand that we have a very vibrant city,” she said.

Duke said while we may be the oldest city in North America, St. John’s also has a new found swagger.

She said tourists want to experience the arts and music, proximity to the ocean, fine dining, and unparalleled story telling they get from local shop owners, cab drivers or just people they run into.

And on the city’s doorsteps are whales, icebergs and internationally famous hiking trails.

Some of Destination St. John’s staff members travel around North America each year to trade shows, promoting what the city has to offer, she said.

“We measure our success by the number of hotel rooms that are sold in the city,” said Duke.

In 2011, Duke said, 22,705 delegates came to St John’s for conventions, and 45,000 hotel rooms were rented over the year.

Organizations: Rotary Club, Disney World

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, North America

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Recent comments

  • A guide
    March 21, 2012 - 05:42

    The real numbers of tourists flying in is easily calculated because most rent a car. Average 3 to a car and that is the number flying in. Count the out of province plates at the ferry gets the rest. Those coming to conventions are in a different category and should be counted separately The increase in "tourists" flying in every summer is just the increase in people flying to work in the summer and people coming home. Have car rentals kept increasing? If not then there is no increase in tourists. Too bad but that's the truth.

  • David
    March 19, 2012 - 20:35

    Tourism has already peaked in this province. It will take the government a few more years, at least one election, and millions of dollars in increased advertising with less than a zero impact to see it...and then another few years to admit it...but it's true.

  • Michael
    March 16, 2012 - 09:13

    Exponential means doubling with each interval. The tourism industry is no doubt doing well, and that's good, but it is not growing exponentially, as claimed.

    • Brett
      March 16, 2012 - 17:13

      1.001^5 go tourism growth!!! 500,000 people - but if you look at the numbers over the last 6 years, the figures are barely up 10%. Growth yes, and I'm sure the dollars spent per visit is may be higher, but really tourism in NL is paltry. Talk to me when we have enough tourism for tourism businesses to be open year round. Until then - people are just blowing hot air.

  • david kitchen
    March 16, 2012 - 08:24

    These numbers represent the total of all persons who came to the province last year. Crew changes on the gulf ferries, workers coming home on their time off, government employees who have been out of the province on business, everyone who left for holidays and returned and the list goes on . It raises the question "who is a tourist ? ". As for #500Million show the receipts and make it believable . The industry will never improve as long as this unproven trash keeps getting repeated.