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Letter: Missed opportunity to capitalize on good press

['<p>One of the images captured by John Sylvester during his trip last June to Iceland.&nbsp;</p>']
['<p>One of the images captured by John Sylvester during his trip last June to Iceland.&nbsp;</p>']

As a Newfoundlander living in London, U.K., it brings me pride when I turn on my computer to do my daily scroll through the news and find Newfoundland and Labrador being featured in feel-good stories in highly respected media outlets such as the BBC. This news coverage is wonderful for garnering attention to our wonderful province, but we need to translate this positive press into tourism.  

This brings me to Iceland. Like Newfoundland and Labrador, Iceland is a magical place with stunning natural features, a unique island culture and a climate suited for only the toughest people. Like N.L.’s current economic condition, in 2009 Iceland was struggling with a recession from mismanagement at the highest levels. On top of this, Iceland was receiving bad press thanks to the volcanic ash cloud. The government needed to find an industry to diversify the economy, and that industry turned out to be tourism. 

To encourage tourism, they created a series of low-cost marketing campaigns through a video series called “Inspired by Iceland.” These videos showcased Iceland’s best features, including its unique culture, natural beauty and inspiring cuisine. These promotions captured the attention of millennial and adventure travellers in Europe and the U.S.A. Despite a drop in tourism elsewhere, a significant economic recession and poor weather, Iceland saw a 263 per cent increase in foreign visitors since 2009 (1.8 million in 2016 from 493,000 in 2009) compared to 4.3 per cent growth in N.L. over the same period (503,000 in 2015 from 483,000 in 2009). 

Iceland provides a unique case study on which N.L. can base its future tourism strategy. It is time the N.L. government created a larger advertising budget to better equip our Tourism Department to better target potential tourists in the approximately 850-million-person-strong European and U.S. markets. N.L. has utilized unique lower-cost marketing campaigns before targeting high net worth individuals in Central Canada to great success in increasing tourism and giving the province a much more positive image across the country. Expanding this program will give us access to new markets and raise awareness of the province around the world.

N.L. is in a better position than Iceland was in 2009, as we have financial backing from Canada, English is our first language, positive press coverage, no terrorism threat and a better geographical location for flights on their way across the Atlantic. With large cities like New York and London battling poor air quality, and with the advent of cheap airfares across the Atlantic, urbanites in these cities have never been thirstier for a unique, authentic and fresh place like N.L.

It is time we capitalized on this and revamped our image and economy at the same time.  

Increasing tourism not only helps diversify the economy; new flights that come with it allow other local businesses easier access to new markets. It is not out of the question to have direct flights to Germany, France, Portugal and throughout the U.S.A. Iceland has 200,000 fewer people than us with a less stable economy, and their airport is four times bigger with flights to 80 destinations. There is no reason we can’t have the same. 

 

Luke Power
London, U.K.
Originally from St. John’s

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