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Feds pump $16 million into Atlantic tourism

Gros Morne National Park attracted more than 2 million visitors in the last decade. The numbers will be down this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the count of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians visiting the park could go up.
Gros Morne National Park on Newfoundland attracted more than 2 million visitors in the last decade. Like most other tourism destinations in Atlantic Canada and the wider world, expectations for this season are low. - SaltWire/file

The federal government is injecting $16 million into Atlantic Canadian tourism to help with the eventual restart of the industry as uncertainty looms over the tourism season.

According to a news release from Economic Development Canada, the funding, delivered by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), will support 79 tourism initiatives led by communities, businesses and organizations across the region. It includes $2.4 million for marketing organizations to help attract tourists once provinces reopen to visitors.

“From the Cabot Trail to the Bay of Fundy, the beaches of Cavendish to the mountains of Gros Morne, it’s not hard to see why visitors are drawn to Atlantic Canada. Yet our tourism industry and those whose livelihoods depend on it has been hit hard by COVID-19, and we stand with them,” Mélanie Joly, minister of economic development and official languages and minister responsible for ACOA, said in a statement. “Our message is clear: we’ve been here for you with immediate measures, we’re here for you now as our economy reopens and we’ll get through this together and come back strong.”

The breakdown for the funding is $3.5 million for 22 projects in Nova Scotia, $2.9 million for 27 projects in Newfoundland and Labrador, $262,696 for seven projects in Prince Edward Island and $2.3 million for 13 projects in New Brunswick.

Grants are slated for a range of organizations and projects, including fishing lodges, arts festivals, museums, conservation organizations and more.

This is in addition to $4.5 million in funding that each province is receiving from Destination Canada for destination marketing organizations to encourage local tourism.

Tourism is a lucrative business in Atlantic Canada, with millions of visitors flocking to the region each year, contributing billions of dollars to the economy. But with borders closed internationally across Canada and at a provincial level in all four Atlantic provinces, the industry has ground to a halt.

There has been talk at a regional level about an Atlantic tourism bubble — opening borders among the four provinces where there have been few or no active COVID-19 cases in recent weeks — but not all provinces have agreed to it.

The premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. have expressed a willingness to establish a bubble within Atlantic Canada by early July. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have said they may also open up to travel from across Canada in mid- to late-July, which other premiers have indicated could complicate those plans. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball has not yet committed to a date for allowing inter-provincial travel without two-week quarantines.

With files from Stu Neatby

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