© Star file photo
The cruise ship MV Veendam made a visit to Bonne Bay recently, with passengers coming ashore at Woody Point. Four more ships are expected to the area in September.
ROCKY HARBOUR It’s been 40 years today since Gros Morne was designated by the federal and provincial governments as a park area, with the formation of the Gros Morne National Park Reserve in 1973.
Taking its name from the second highest mountain peak in the province, Gros Morne’s French meaning is “Large mountain standing alone.”
The park has become popular in recent years with provincial residents, and a quick look at online message boards around the world show the love people from other countries have for Gros Morne.
“Best visit ever” raves a man from Kansas City. “Most definitely coming back,” said a woman from Japan. “Everyone should see this park,” said a New Zealand resident.
Those comments translate into tourism dollars, and over the past few years the park has seen its summer visitor numbers increase each year.
This year park tourism operators saw a 20 per cent increase in online reservations. Experts have suggested that several developments could mean more increased visitorship in the future, with representatives from the online search engine Google mapping the area. There is also a movement to bring more extreme sports, such as zip lining and mountain biking, to the area.
Gros Morne Adventures co-owner Bob Hicks recently said other activities being offered could certainly spell more business for tour operators already in existence. But he hopes the local accommodations industry can keep up.
“The killer here is that there’s only a certain limit of capacity, generally for certain periods of summer it’s at full capacity,” said Hicks. “But it opens up the door for new capacity as far as accommodators, for expansion or to build new facilities.”
Go Western Newfoundland director of travel and trade Laura Walbourne said her organization has been representing the province at various trade shows in the US and Canada. From what she has heard, she said, the American economy seems to be doing better and as a result more tour operators have been asking about sending groups to Atlantic Canada, just as more tourists talking about vacationing in this province.
”I think the television ads are working very well. In fact, whenever we ask what brought people to think of Newfoundland, they usually talk about an ad they saw on television,” she said.
She added that 2013 could be a banner year for tourism in this province, and Gros Morne is a very big part of that growth.
Figures released earlier this year by the provincial government show tourism spending reached $1 billion for the first time in 2011. While revenue was not available for last year, the province saw approximately 504,000 non-resident visitors in 2012.