Randy Boissonnault joined hundreds of business leaders from across the province on Wednesday for the 2022 Tourism Summit in Halifax.
Boissonnault says Canada is heading into choppy waters when it comes to the economy, but the tourism industry will help offset the effects.
He cites the war in Ukraine, ongoing supply chain issues and the rise in inflation as some of the factors pointing to a slowing of the economy.
He says Halifax’s tourism is already in a good place to help weather the storm.
“Nova Scotia is doing really well just from the hotel occupancy rate,” according to Boissonnault. “Nova Scotia hotels are at about 71 per cent, which is higher than the Canadian average, which is about 65 per cent. So that tells you there’s something special in Nova Scotia. People want to see the province. They want to come to Halifax. It’s a regional powerhouse city.”
John Simon is the president of CanadVac Travel Services. He’s not so sure the industry has fully recovered from the pandemic.
“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 per cent convinced of that yet,” Simon says.
“A lot of the tourism operators have come through with significant challenges in terms of debt load, making it through two years and more of no income. Of course, the federal programs helped in terms of making it through but they also put them in a position of a lot of debt. So a recession on top of that debt – even if the tourism industry is rebounding – is going to make it challenging for those tourism operators over the longer term to survive.”
The President of Tourism HR Canada says another problem is that the industry has lost a significant chunk of its workforce since the pandemic.
“It’s a real significant challenge for the industry for sure,” Philip Mondor says. “Although there is a lot of demand for growth and recovery, we’re hampered by the fact that we do not have enough workers to fill all of the roles we have.”
There were 2.1 million workers pre-pandemic, according to Mondor. That number is now down to 1.67 million workers.
Scott MacAulay with the Inverary Resort in Cape Breton says his business has had a terrific year and he’s optimistic for the future.
“There’s a pent-up demand for travel,” he says. “People seem to be able to find a way with the product we have in Nova Scotia with the great outdoors and lots of wide-open spaces. People feel comfortable and safe.”
He recommends if a business is struggling to try and adapt to what people are looking for after pandemic years, including offering more outdoor activities all season.