Tourism

N.S. tourist numbers spike 7% in August

Province expects $2.6 billion in revenue from tourism this year

Tourists stroll the Halifax boardwalk.
Tourists stroll the Halifax waterfront boardwalk.   Eleanor Davidson

Almost 400,000 visitors came to Nova Scotia in August, marking the largest increase in tourism to the province in nearly 15 years.

Kelli MacDonald, spokesperson for Nova Scotia Tourism, says the last time the province reached similar numbers was in August 2002, with 380,000 visitors.

Tourism Nova Scotia released the August statistics Tuesday, showing increases in both Canadian and international visitors to the province.

Erica Pellerin, spokesperson for Destination Halifax, says the city’s tourism and marketing organization is thrilled about the growth in visitors to the province. She also notes the five per cent increase the Metro area saw in August.

“One of the big factors was we had an exceptional August in terms of weather, and that makes people want to get out and explore their surroundings,” she says.

Gray Line tour buses wait to pick up cruse ship passengers at the Halifax Seaport.
Gray Line tour buses wait to pick up cruise ship passengers at the Halifax Seaport.   Eleanor Davidson

MacDonald says another factor that has boosted tourism is the exchange rate – the Canadian dollar is worth about 75 cents in U.S. funds. She explains this gives American visitors an incentive to save money by travelling to Canada.

She also attributes the 11 per cent boost in American visitors to another factor: the “Trump bump,” which drew visitors to Cape Breton Island after Rob Calabrese, a local radio host, created the satirical website Cape Breton if Donald Trump Wins.

Despite an increased American interest in Nova Scotia, the majority of visitors to the province are Canadian. MacDonald says this is due to the weak Canadian dollar encouraging them to stay in the country.

“Over 50 per cent of people that actually visit Halifax are Maritimers, who mostly drive,” says Pellerin.

Philippe Boulet and his partner, Jeannine Maynard, have been driving to Halifax since 2002, and have visited the city about 40 times.

“We love the place, we love the scenery, we love the people,” says Boulet, who’s from Sherbrooke, Que. “The people are so helpful here,”

Maynard was not surprised to learn about the recent rise in tourism in Nova Scotia.

“I think you have everything. You have the weather, the sea, the nice people,” she says.

As more tourists arrive, MacDonald says, Nova Scotia Tourism will be promoting the province to groups they haven’t previously targeted.

“We want to show them that visiting Nova Scotia is a world-class experience.”

Pellerin’s focus is ensuring that Halifax maintains a variety of festivals, events and attractions that help bring people to the city, such as the Halifax International Buskers Festival and the 2017 return of a Tall Ships regatta.

“There’s a lot going on here, there’s a lot of momentum bubbling. We’re really encouraged.”