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Report looks into what the Halifax tourism sector could look like in summer 2021

A bustling Halifax waterfront on June 15, 2019.
A bustling Halifax waterfront on June 15, 2019. Alexander Quon/Global News

The MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance at Dalhousie University released a report Friday that aims to provide tourism industries with tools to plan for the future amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Halifax Tourism 2021 report explains that tourism is an important sector for both Halifax and the province, employing more than 34,000 people and generating over $1.3 billion in direct spending each year.

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“While Nova Scotia has fared better than many parts of the country in containing the spread of COVID-19, Halifax tourism has been hit hard: unemployment rates are high and many businesses are struggling,” the report said.

The research also showed that travel restrictions and border closures will continue to affect Halifax tourism for the foreseeable future, which means that the Atlantic bubble introduced in July will be the key market for the sector to focus on.

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“We don’t know what will happen, but these scenarios will help Discover Halifax plan and perform our primary function of attracting visitors from safe travel markets,” said Ross Jefferson, president and CEO of Discover Halifax, the non-profit, membership-based marketing organization for the Halifax region.

“One thing is certain: we can’t lose sight of who we are as a safe, friendly and welcoming destination. Our future depends on it,” he added in a press release.

The institute said the project involved two scenario planning sessions held in August at the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel, where key tourism stakeholders came together to identify drivers, challenges and opportunities for the sector.

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The results of that project were used in the creation of the report, which aims to provide “an overview on how scenario planning can be used to identify, plan, and strategize for an uncertain future.”

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“We identified some early strategic responses the sector could adopt in these highly fluid and uncertain circumstances in order to better prepare for next year,” the researchers said in the report.

According to the report, these strategic responses include having better co-ordination between different enterprises within the Halifax tourism sector, where it requires them to meet more frequently and work to establish a method for engaging with other key stakeholders, such as the government and public health agencies.

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“A more collaborative approach would also provide the sector with the opportunity to make positive changes aimed at placing the sector in a stronger position going forward,” stated the report.

New partnerships, technological advances, expanding the tourism season and infrastructure development were also cited as opportunities that the sector and key stakeholders can pursue to help in the sector’s recovery.

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By having tourism industries co-ordinate, researches also believe that will help the sector maintain high standards of public health.

“It can help to allay public concerns from Nova Scotians and tourists from markets who visit Nova Scotia that the province is a safe place to visit,” researches said.

The MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance is a nationally focused, non-partisan, interdisciplinary institute designed to support the development of progressive public policy and to encourage greater citizen engagement.