Tourism spending in Newfoundland and Labrador topped $1 billion for the first time in 2011, according to figures released Thursday by the provincial government.
Tourism Minister Terry French, speaking at a luncheon at the Delta Hotel in
St. John’s as part of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador’s annual conference, drew applause from the crowd of hundreds, made up largely of representatives from the tourism industry, when he made the announcement.
“Clearly, we’re well on our way to achieving the target we set out for ourselves in the Uncommon Potential document,” he said, referring to a strategy released by then-tourism minister Clyde Jackman that set a goal of doubling annual tourism revenue to $1.6 billion by 2020.
In 2011, non-resident visitors spent $424.4 million within the province, while the more than four million trips taken by residents within the province generated $580.2 million in revenue.
The amount of revenue in 2012 hasn’t been tabulated yet, but last year the number of non-resident visitors to the province topped half a million, to about 504,000.
Two years ago, the province announced non-resident visitation hit 518,000 in 2010 — but that, French said Thursday, was under a less-accurate methodology than the one the government started using in 2011.
The 504,000 non-resident visitors in 2012 also represented a 10 per cent increase over 2011, putting that year’s number around 460,000. That would mean the number of visitors in 2010 would have been less than 460,000, had the new survey method been used at the time.
“We went through an interesting process. We changed the methodology on how we did business,” he said. “We changed everything in the queue in how we count people, because obviously you can’t count every single one, so you get percentages that come to airports, come through on rubber-tire traffic and so on, and you have an equation.”
Visitor numbers have been going up steadily, said French, crediting tourism operators.
“You have to take your hat off to the people in this industry. They’re very innovative. They’re creative,” he said, pointing to Target’s popular, long-running Find Yourself campaign. “It’s a credit to the people in this room. When the announcement’s made, it’s very exciting for us,” said Darlene Thomas, chairwoman of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador. “You’re seeing other provinces, over the last few years, have been really seeing decreases, and even in those really tough times, we were seeing small increases, so to see it now elevate again to some good numbers is exciting for the industry.”