PORT AUX BASQUES, NL – Tourism Southwest held its annual general meeting at the Hotel Port aux Basques on Tuesday.
Thanks to the levy fee – an optional tourism charge applied by participating hoteliers – the organization funded $126,000 worth of projects in the past two years. The demand for more, reported president Scott Ryan, surpassed its ability to finance.
One of the projects included purchasing a brush cutter to improve walking trails between Bay St. George and Port aux Basques.
Guest speaker John Vivian, who helped build the Skerwink Trail as a destination walking trail, described at length the almost 20-year endeavor and resulting economic growth to Port Rexton, a town of about 350.
Five years ago, the trail had 11,000 visits. This past year there were 32,000.
“That’s a lot of spin off,” said Vivian, who believes walking trails in the southwest coast region are already well established.
Vivian pointed out the Wreckhouse is already a familiar area within the province and even beyond. He recommends building a trail called the Wreckhouse Trail, and using it as the linchpin of coastal trail network.
Vivian, who has 30 years’ experience in the tourism industry, outlined an almost step-by-step plan based on his own experience with the Skerwink Trail, which Travel & Leisure Magazine has ranked as one of the top 35 in North America and Europe.
Key among them was inviting travel writers to review the trail system in the region.
“Travel writers are the ones who are going to put you on the map,” advised Vivian, who says mention of the trail and Port Rexton once appeared in The London Times.
In 2019 Skerwink Trail will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Vivian says Port Rexton is now riding a boon directly because of the trail. The town has its own brewery and town council is working to clear land for new builds.
Some houses sell for over the half-million-dollar mark, and because tourists demanded it, Skerwink now retails its own merchandise such as T-shirts, water bottles, and baseball caps. There are even a few jobs now, since the trail sustains itself financially.
“You guys can do the same here.”