© Geraldine Brophy
Keith Payne, the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association’s executive director, speaks during the association’s convention in Corner Brook this past weekend.
CORNER BROOK — The Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association is planning to strike a committee in the new year to help address its guide shortage problem.
Heading into the association’s convention and annual general meeting in Corner Brook this past weekend, the looming shortage was one of the hotter topics up for discussion.
“We have just formed a new board and have a meeting in January,” said Keith Payne, the association’s executive director. “We’ll be looking then at setting up a committee to look at our labour market issues and to follow up with (Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador) and our funding partners.”
During the convention, delegates did hear from Juanita Ford, Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador’s workforce and industry development manager, about where to look for guides and how to keep them once they have been found.
Ford’s suggestions included looking for guides from outside the province if necessary, although they would have to be from within Canada since foreigners are not permitted to work as guides in Canada.
She also suggested retirees from within the province to be a good potential source since many of them have vast knowledge of hunting and fishing and time on their hands to work seasonally.
In fact, Payne himself is an example of someone who got into guiding after retiring.
“I think your typical 50- or 60-year-old Newfoundlander is pretty competent in the woods, historically speaking,” said Payne. “People are working longer, are healthier and they want to be active. Guiding offers them periods of fairly intense work, but they still have flexibility because they don’t want a job for 12 months of the year.”
The outfitters association was disappointed with the shutting down of the adventure tourism program at the College of the North Atlantic campus in Corner Brook this year and the closing of a guiding training program in St. Anthony a few years ago.
Payne said there is apparently some talk about the College of the North Atlantic starting a new program that combines adventure tourism and guiding as both those programs had been a potentially good source for guides. The association has offered its support in any way it can, said Payne.
“We would be very much in support of that new program,” he said. “It would be a part of the solution for our needs and for other tourism operators who run tours, hikes and those sorts of things because they are experiencing the same shortages that we are.”