Provincial tourism numbers, both occupancy rate and room nights sold, increased by one per cent this May over last year.
The Fundy Shore and Annapolis Valley meanwhile are up stronger with a 15 per cent increase in room nights sold. Yarmouth and the Acadian Shore meanwhile saw a 9 per cent drop in room nights sold from May 2010.
Diane Theriault, past chair of the Digby Area Tourism Association says business at the Petite Passage Whale Watch in East Ferry is down “some”.
“Not so much the whale watch but the cafe is slower,” she says. “People used to start coming for breakfast and coffee, say around 9 or 9:30 but now they are coming for lunch, like 11, 11:30, to eat before the whale watch.”
Roger Marshall of Marshall’s Gifts and Souvenirs on Water St. in Digby says tourism is slow so far this year. He summed it up this way:
“The dollar is hurting tourists from south of the border and gas is hurting the tourists from north of the border.”
Wally Weir at Jagger’s Point Oceanfront Campground in Smith’s Cove hasn’t noticed.
“The best year we’ve ever had,” he says. He and his partner Jeff Giles of Middleton have owned the campground for three years now. “Every year just keeps getting better.”
The provincial numbers for visitors coming to the province in RV (recreational vehicles, or motor homes and campers) were down 28 per cent this May over last year but Weir says they have been almost sold out every weekend.
“Our weekends are good, mostly sold out. People are coming in droves and having a good time. We’re not complaining.
“We have the ocean right here, a pool and everything people are looking for. We’ve got live music every Friday night.”
Weir thinks the big reason for the success this year is the theme nights they hold every weekend – Christmas in July, Halloween, and Pirate weekends for example.
“It’s all geared for kids, we decorate the whole place, we have activities and games, people love it.”
Ian Barnes of the Admiral Inn on Shore Road in Digby says his bottom line is “definitely down” but not by much. He says his room nights are up – from 1.4 nights per visitor to almost 1.8 – but the guests are “more frugal” and less likely to upgrade their rooms.
“Those who do come are staying longer,” says Barnes. “They are getting out and doing something in the area. Someone is giving them the right message.”
Overall he’s positive about tourism in Digby.
“We send people over to eat in the great restaurants in town all the time. It has that old-fashioned seaside Victorian feel to it. Lovely. We love to send people for a walk on the wharf at night. It’s well lit and people are curious about a real working fishing town. And the lighthouse is gorgeous.”
Barnes does have a couple suggestions. He’d like to see them use the milled asphalt that will be coming off the Shore Road to pave some of the look off. He’d also like to see the gate gone from Point Prim.
He says 95 per cent of his guests say they will come back.
“If we feed them well, if we don’t rip them off and if we give them a good night’s sleep, they’ll come back.”
The province’s tourism stats are available online at www.gov.ns.ca/econ/tourism/research/latest-activity-updates.asp