Deer Lake -
Jacqui Hunter places at least one item from her garden or greenhouse on each plate at Java Jack's Restaurant and Gallery in Rocky Harbour. The restaurant showcases locally grown food and locally produced art and with the garden just outside the window, visitors are fully aware of where their food comes from.
"People are eating at places because they know they're sustainable, they're green and they're supporting local art," Hunter said.
Businesses like this, as well as individuals in the community, benefit from the Gros Morne Institute for Sustainable Tourism (GMIST), a professional development program for private sector businesses taking part in experiential tourism.
On Thursday morning, with a backdrop of Rocky Harbour, boats and breaking waves, Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) Keith Ashfield announced the federal government's investment of more than $786,000 to the institute.
"Gros Morne Institute for Sustainable Tourism has been teaching tourism businesses how to create authentic experiences visitors will cherish forever.
"It does that by thinking 'glocally.' It thinks globally and acts locally. All over the world people are interested in progress but not at the expense of our natural or cultural heritage," Ashfield said.
He said the institute has trained 600 tourism operators and community members since its start in 2004 and the new funding will help provide training for 650 more participants.
"GMIST has become a leader in the development of sustainable and authentic tourism practices in this region, helping operators to develop their businesses in ways that are sustainable, creative and enriching for all of us for years to come," Ashfield said.
Todd Wight, owner of the Ocean View Hotel in Rocky Harbour, said from bringing people to the community for training as well as the message of sustainability and authenticity it exudes, the program means a lot to the area.
"(GMIST) helps us design experiences that are more authentic and more real, like local art on the walls and trying to create things that are really meaningful ... Sustainability is key," Wight said. "(Visitors) are looking for really authentic experiences, as true as you can be in terms of your food, your rooms, your whole experience, your entertainment. It's never finished. It's a work in motion."
Jonathan Foster, the institute's executive director, said he is pleased the work the institute is doing, both locally and throughout Atlantic Canada, will continue.
"It's really amazing to start these practices in Rocky Harbour and then expand it out into Atlantic Canada," Foster said. "I'm not sure if in the beginning we'd realize the impact a little town in western Newfoundland could have on the direction that tourism is taking. ... We really have shifted and helped set the course for other provinces in regards to how they want to model their tourism industry. It's not necessarily about buildings and infrastructure; it's about investing in people like yourself and really drawing out the skills and the talents to share that around Atlantic Canada."