DEER LAKE — Summer 2012 is already in the history books as one of the most beautiful on record in terms of weather. And, while campgrounds saw above-average numbers, it was a slightly different story for lodging businesses in Gros Morne National Park.
Roxanne Welsh, of Fisherman’s Landing Inn in Rocky Harbour, said the town just didn’t seem as busy as in previous years.
“I think the whole area has been down in general,” said the assistant manager. “Watching the streets, I just didn’t see as many people as I would have last year.”
Welsh confirmed her hotel’s numbers have decreased slightly this year. Better weather, she said, may have driven people out of the hotel mindset and into the campsites to stay under the unusually clear summer skies this past tourist season. Also, she said, talking to some guests she got the impression people felt getting on the island was costly.
“I’ve heard guests say it’s expensive, Marine Atlantic and Air Canada are both costly,” she said. “The U.S. dollar is down, the price of gas is up, it can all factor in.”
Welsh said the tourism industry can be like being on a roller coaster.
“Last year we were up, four or five years ago we were down, it all has to be taken into consideration,” she said. “There are other accommodations that have gone up, so that might have made a difference as well.”
At the Gros Morne Suites in Rocky Harbour, manager Jennifer Shears said her facility was booked most nights during the summer, but there was one major difference.
“We didn’t turn away a lot of people and there weren’t as many walk-in requests,” said Shears.
“In the past we would probably turn away 20 people a day, with a lot of people walking in (with no reservation) asking about availability, but we didn’t get that as much.”
At Woody Point’s Seaside Suites, owner Darlene Thomas said her small facility did “fairly well” over the summer. She said the businesses of Woody Point reaped some extra business in August from the Writers at Woody Point festival.
“I have heard that visitor numbers are down across the province,” she said. “We’re steady and a lot of our reservations are in advance, we don’t get a lot of walk-up traffic, but we’ve had a good summer.”
She said the convention business in St. John’s may have been down a little, which could have had an effect on the west coast.
“People who go to St. John’s for conventions, a lot of them will head out on side trips to come and see Gros Morne, and we didn’t see much of that this year,” said Thomas. “And government cutbacks, people in government haven’t been travelling as much as they had before, we’re seeing that too.”
By contrast, the Deer Lake Motel, according to desk clerk Lisa Hayden, did extremely well.
“We’re close to the airport, so I think that’s why,” she said. “We did just as good as last year.”
The newly opened Deer Lake Airport Hotel, soon to be renamed Holiday Inn Express, also reported receiving excellent visitor numbers.