Burin Peninsula tourism under the microscope

Area’s challenge is to be seen as more than the driveway to St. Pierre: assistant professor

Paul Herridge editor@southerngazette.ca
Published on September 21, 2013
Mark Stoddart, an assistant professor in Memorial University’s department of sociology, has been researching the tourism industry on the Burin Peninsula for the past several months.
— Photo courtesy of Memorial University

Mark Stoddart is hoping research he’s been working on for the past several months will spur more conversation about the Burin Peninsula’s tourism industry.

An assistant professor with Memorial University’s department of sociology, Stoddart is also in the final year of a larger three-year project on the provincial tourism industry, focusing on how it is changing social and environmental interaction in coastal areas.

He described his Burin Peninsula work as a case study nestled within the broader project. He noted it came about while attending a regional workshop hosted by Memorial’s Harris Centre last fall in Marystown, where the need for more research on how to increase tourism to the region was raised.

“Through the discussions in the tourism working group at the Harris Centre workshop, this project kind of had its genesis or a spark of interest.”

Stoddart visited Marystown and Fortune for three days in April, meeting with tourism operators, promoters and other stakeholders with a vested interest. He returned last month, travelling around the region and visiting sites discussed during his first trip.

“Also, over the summer I’ve been looking at a lot of secondary literature and existing research and trying to synthesize some of that, and looking at literature on the Burin, but also other regions that have kind of successfully made the transition towards tourism economies.”

Though he doesn’t have his final report completed yet, Stoddart said his preliminary sense is there are a number of unique aspects in the region to build around.

On the one hand, he said, the area has beautiful coastlines people identify with the province, and has a unique attraction in its proximity to St-Pierre-Miquelon, as well distinctive draws in the Fortune Head Ecological Reserve and the 1929 tsunami history.

He believes there’s potential to market local sites as part of packages that plug into other sites around the province with similar themes, for instance, Fortune Head with the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve on the Avalon Peninsula and The Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park.

Not surprisingly, he suggested one of the obstacles to overcome is the drive to get to the region.

“I think one of the challenges is shifting a bit of the image of the whole region to not just be seen outside the region as just the driveway to St-Pierre, and how to encourage people to see the region as interesting in and of itself.”

Stoddart said his research would not come up with a magical solution, but will hopefully keep the momentum going that was started last fall.

He indicated he plans to have his report completed and presented to the participants, from his research meetings, this winter or early in next spring. Then, he said, he’s hoping to set up more meetings to strategize about followup research.

“Really, this is kind of laying some groundwork to hopefully more sophisticated research, a larger-scale research project that might target some more specific issues that come out of this report.”

The Southern Gazette