Should tourism be a focus of post-pandemic growth?
It was nice to read about the Crabbe Mountain expansion plans in the paper today.
As many of you know I am a fan of the tourism industry as it helps reduce the value of our trade deficit by bringing in hundreds of millions in dollars of spending in a good year. The industry also plays the role of salesperson to potential migrants to our province. They come here to visit and like it so much they become interested in staying here. The tourism sector also boosts the recreational, entertainment and restaurant infrastructure that is accessed by New Brunswickers. This is a small, sparsely populated province and many of the outdoor and indoor activities that we enjoy might not have a business case without tourists.
So it puzzles me a bit when I don’t see much interest in adding tourism investment to our economic development efforts. It seems to me there could be substantial potential to develop parts of the Bay of Fundy coastline (not just a road, actual tourism infrastructure), areas adjacent to other bodies of water (ocean, rivers and lakes) and other natural areas (like Crabbe). There could also be opportunity to develop experiential tourism (pick your blueberries, get shown how to make a pie, then cook and eat it) and destination tourism (built up activities such as Magic Mountain).
I don’t claim to have expertise here - only that I’m quite sure tourism investment isn’t really on the radar. Tourism promotion is very much on the radar - every region of the province pushes what they have now but not that many have developed the case for new opportunities.
I’m not suggesting that tourism should be the backbone of our economic development efforts but I think it could be a nice supplement - for the reasons outlined above.
I have to address the elephant in the room, of course. I got pilloried on social media recently for daring to suggest ever so mildly that some older workers might want to take a job in tourism in the summer to earn extra cash - maybe to Snow Bird or something else. One pithy commenter suggested my mother should go mow his/her lawn for minimum wage. I checked and, at 85, she would be happy to oblige.
It is true that the lack of workers is becoming a natural barrier to growing the tourism sector. I think there are creative ways we can work on this. For example, attract more international students - high school, college, university - and encourage some to stay and work in the summer tourism sector. Another one I like is encouraging more entrepreneurship in tourism. Instead of working for someone else, set up your own tourism business.
In the end, a tourism investment strategy these days needs a bolted on workforce development strategy.