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Atlantic provinces encouraging staycations as they compete for local tourism dollars

CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Tourism Nova Scotia launched a new marketing campaign, encouraging Nova Scotians to stay home this summer, called “Rediscover Nova Scotia.”

The launch came just a day after it was announced the Atlantic bubble would open July 3, allowing residents of all four Atlantic provinces to move freely between provinces without the need to self isolate.

READ MORE: Travel bubble coming to Atlantic Canada July 3

“We know that typically even a Nova Scotian will know two to three key things they like to do in their own backyard,” said Joann Fitzgerald, Chief Marketing Officer for Tourism Nova Scotia.

“We wanted to get that to two, three, four, five or six different experiences and places they wouldn’t have thought to go.”

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This is a big change from previous years when the province’s tourism sector heavily promoted itself to international markets, and other Canadian provinces.

“We don’t actually market in Atlantic Canada, or Nova Scotia typically,” said Fitzgerald.

“Given COVID-19, we needed to pivot our strategy and really leverage and make an impact where we can.”

Other Atlantic provinces are taking similar leads.

Last week New Brunswick launched it’s Explore NB campaign, also aimed at helping local residents find more to do in their own province.

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“The campaigns are going to help a lot,” said Carol Alderdice with New Brunswick’s tourism industry association.

“But, I think just the fact [people have] been cooped in so long, is going to be incentive enough for them to visit their beautiful province.”

Prince Edward Island already typically focuses much of it’s marketing efforts on Atlantic Canada, which makes up about 60 per cent of its tourists.

That will continue this summer, but the message will be a bit different.

“Our regional tourism associations, they’ve put a lot of effort into who’s open when they’re open,” said Corryn Clemence, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of PEI.

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“A lot of the messaging will be around safe area, the operational plans all of  sudden have become more important and I think will be the forefront of a lot of communication strategies that we’ll see,” said Clemence.

Nova Scotia has also always benefited greatly from local tourism.

In an average year, nearly 40 per cent of tourism revenue comes from Nova Scotians. A further 14 percent comes from the rest of Atlantic Canada.

New Brunswick may have more of a challenge this year, with only about a third of its tourists typically coming from Atlantic Canada. The majority instead come from Ontario, the United States and neighbouring Quebec.

“For some of our operators in the north, [Quebec tourists] make up 65 percent of their revenue, so having the Quebec border closed is pretty devastating,” said Carol Alderdice.

The season isn’t a total loss though. If the Atlantic bubble goes well, there is talk that the region could be opening up their borders to the rest of Canada by mid to late July.

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In the meantime tourism operators are doing what they can to encourage local travel.

“They normally do itineraries for people coming into New Brunswick but now, they’re helping to put together itineraries for New Brunswickers to visit New Brunswick” said Alderdice. “They are adapting.”