Revitalizing Tourism in Nova Scotia

Maria Caines

June 28, 2020

Now is the time for tourism operators to explore new strategies, and create a system that will enable them to continue to engage and retain customers. This approach holds the highest potential for growth in the immediate future. While this may be a new concept for tourism businesses, it has been proven repeatedly in the past by loyalty programs such as Aeroplan, Marriott, Avion, Starboard, IHG and many more. A customer loyalty/rewards program is the most efficient option for increasing email opt-ins that will collect enough guest information to continue corresponding with them.

Spring of 2020 dealt a horrific blow to tourism in Nova Scotia and on a global scale. In November, 2019 Tourism Nova Scotia had released their visitor numbers for June to September of 2019, already indicating a 5% decline in visitors from the same period in 2018 (https://www.tourismns.ca/nova-scotia-hosts-more-12-million-visitors-summer-2019). While the dollars associated with this decline have not yet been released, it’s safe to presume that they will reflect a similar reduction. Factors such as Hurricane Dorian, the absence of the Yarmouth-Maine Ferry, and the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft are being blamed for the dwindling outcome, but are Nova Scotia tourism operators doing, or preparing to do, enough to attract visitors?

Until now, most tourism operators in Nova Scotia take the one-and-done view that once a visitor has stayed with them, that visitor is unlikely to return. Yet, there is one important tactic which few tourism operators here have embraced in order to grow their businesses. They are failing to invite their visitors to come back! In this emerging economy, every customer becomes crucial to your success. To nurture the relationship, you need a more direct way to connect with each and every one.

Now is the time for operators to explore new strategies, and create a system that will enable them to continue to engage and retain customers. This approach holds the highest potential for growth in the immediate future. While this may be a new concept for Nova Scotia businesses, it has been proven repeatedly in the past by loyalty programs such as Aeroplan, Marriott, Avion, Starboard, IHG and many more. A customer loyalty/rewards program is the most efficient option for increasing email opt-ins that will collect enough guest information to continue corresponding with them.

Choosing the right loyalty platform can be tricky so look for one that is global (one that travellers can use at home), coalition (multiple redemption partners), mobile (so you can take it to trade shows), brandable with your logo, easy to use, API to connect your booking site, and provides statistical information to help you get to know your customer and give them special offers. Keep it simple yet powerful so you don’t get lost in a quagmire of information that you’ll never need. Operators may even enjoy significant savings on online travel agency fees and traditional advertising costs. The best choice would be having most operators use the same platform, so we could reward visitors wherever they choose to relax, stay, and play.

With the majority of operators, whether rooms, restaurants, adventures, festivals or cultural experiences, connecting with the visitors whose information was collected, inviting them back for a new experience, a different season, another region of Nova Scotia, we shall create a wave of boomerang visitors. And they will be much more likely to bring friends or family with them, because, like a choir, our combined voices will resonate throughout the globe on a regular basis, reverberating the echoes of Nova Scotia, calling them back, reminding them like a photo, capturing that moment in time when we were THE best hosts. We can, and we must, be raising our collective voices with a common message: Nova Scotians would love to welcome you to our shores again, and again, and again.

It is important to recognize that Tourism Nova Scotia had intensified their efforts by marketing Nova Scotia’s charm into key national and international markets, by providing snapshots of Nova Scotia experiences to share through our marketing and social media channels, and by educating operators about expectations of service levels and how to deliver on those expectations. The Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia continues to do excellent work representing industry operators. Their mandate states it best: “Working with our partner associations and stakeholders, TIANS is committed to representing the best interests of the Industry; enhancing and supporting the development of a competitive business environment; advocating on issues critical to the industry’s success; and, most importantly, leading Nova Scotia’s most promising sector.” Also distinguished in their promotional endeavours and advocacy are Discover Halifax, regional tourism associations, and the many chambers of commerce throughout Nova Scotia. Their enduring support is truly welcomed and necessary.

Proponents of the ONE Nova Scotia report will be wondering how the tourism industry can possibly achieve the $4 billion revenue target within the 5 years remaining in the challenge. Tourism Nova Scotia has identified 4 key growth mechanisms to accomplish this goal:

 Attract more first time visitors
 Invest in markets of highest return
 Focus on world-class experiences
 Build tourism confidence

All of these initiatives are excellent and until 2020, have resulted in overall increases since the 2013 debut of the ONE Nova Scotia report. Now it’s time for tourism operators to step up their game and prepare to regularly lay out the welcome mat for their guests to return by keeping them current on new festivals, events, attractions and adventures! Our team is here to help you start now!