PLUM POINT, N.L. – A group of women from Bird Cove to Conche got together in Plum Point recently to discuss tourism opportunities and cultural renewal.
The discussion focused on improvements and key themes to better utilize and organize for the upcoming tourism season along that area of the Great Northern Peninsula.
The meeting was just one of several being held across the province as part of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation’s Cultural Action Plan Renewal.
One of the attendees, Jeannie Billard who operates Jeannie’s Sunrise Bed and Breakfast in Port au Choix, says the meeting was an informative eye opener.
“I was impressed knowing we had this opportunity to voice our opinion and see where we can improve and enhance tourism,” said Billard.
Already for this summer, Billard says she’s got half her rooms booked up and has already had guests from as far as way from Israel stay at her bed and breakfast in early May. Billard is also a town councillor and member of the Port au Choix Hospitality Committee.
With this growing level of business, Billard sees one key take away from the meeting was the need to expand the length of Newfoundland and Labrador’s tourism season.
“Tourism is starting to expand its wings, people are coming earlier and staying later,” she said. “We have to open our sites earlier. It’d be very important for my business if all the Canada Parks sites and museums were opened by late May up until Thanksgiving weekend.”
As part of this need to open the tourist season earlier, Billard says there was a call to reach out to more university students for volunteering and summer jobs, as well as acquiring funds to hire on people in their 30s and 40s who are in the community and in need of employment.
“This year, kids are not getting out of high school until the end of June,” said Billard. “We need people from university who are out of school by May and hire them on.”
In an emailed response, Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Chris Mitchelmore says there is a strong focus through these meetings on indigenous cultures, archaeology, and growing the connection between Newfoundland and Labrador culture and history in tourism ventures.
Billard agrees that connecting tourists and visitors to the unique cultural heritage and customs of the province is an essential subject to explore. Part of this initiative is ensuring products made in Newfoundland and Labrador are utilized most prominently among community businesses.
“Getting more local crafts and products made here in Newfoundland is something we have to start focusing on,” said Billard.
Ten people attended the meeting held on May 7. Other attendees including Susan White and Millie Spence were reached for comment but did not reply by deadline.
Mitchelmore says the feedback taken from these meetings will be used by the department to develop a new cultural action plan. That plan has not been updated since 2006.