• Maria Caines

Tackling Tourism Growth

On November 29th, Tourism Nova Scotia released their visitor numbers for June to September of 2019, 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.

It is important to recognize that Tourism Nova Scotia has 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 in combination have resulted in overall increases since the 2013 debut of the ONE Nova Scotia report. Yet, there is one important tactic which few tourism operators in Nova Scotia have embraced in order to grow their businesses. Most operators take the one-and-done view that once a visitor has stayed with them, that visitor is unlikely to return. They are failing to invite their visitors to come back!

Already into the shoulder season of tourism in Nova Scotia, now is the time for operators to explore new strategies, and creating a system that will enable them to continue to engage and retain customers 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 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 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 for special offers. Keep it simple yet powerful so you don’t get lost in a quagmire of information that you’ll never need. You may even enjoy significant savings on OTA 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 should, be raising our collective voices with a common message: Nova Scotians would love to welcome you to darken our doors again, and again.

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