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Ross Jefferson

Ross Jefferson
President & Chief Executive Officer, Discover Halifax

Recently, Discover Halifax reported a 9.4 per cent increase in overnight stays to the Halifax region. This makes 2019 the seventh, consecutive year of growth for the region’s tourism sector.

2019 was also the best year on record for the tourism industry nationally. Destination Canada, the national marketing organization, reported there were 22.1 million travelers to Canada last year.

The tourism industry is growing globally, too. So, it’s exciting to see that Halifax is competing with other destinations to attract visitor spend.

As we ease our way into a new decade, it had me thinking about how the tourism industry in the Halifax region has evolved over the past 10 years. Five significant things stood out.

10 Year Tourism Infographic 300dpi

Economic growth – Halifax’s economy has benefited from a tourism industry that has continued to diversify over the past 10 years. Today, it means there are more than 34,000 jobs in the tourism sector in Halifax’s federal ridings alone. This is up from approximately 20,000 jobs according to figures from Tourism HR Canada.

These jobs offer a variety of work for different types of businesses, including hotels, meeting and convention spaces, restaurants, retail stores, attractions, and so much more.

Technology – Even though smartphones have been around since the mid-1990’s, these weren’t mainstream until ten years ago. These devices have profoundly changed the travel economy.

Visitors now have a plethora of tools available to help influence their travel decisions and plan their trip. From digital maps on a phone instead of paper maps and guides to recent ratings and recommendations that help influence where they’ll stay, eat, and play.

At Discover Halifax, we are taking a digital-first approach to everything we do. We have introduced several new ways to find information to plan your travel to Halifax Regional Municipality and help you connect with the experiences you are looking for.

Social media and reviews – We can’t think about the influence smartphones have had without also thinking about the impact of social media. We see this within our own social media channels at Discover Halifax. Back in 2009, we had not established our social media presence, but by 2013 we had accumulated 42,000 followers. By last year, we surpassed 182,000 followers.

People can readily share their travel stories and experiences within their network instantly. This form of marketing always existed on some level. Now, the family vacation album is widely shared on social media sites, and this has had a major impact on travel marketing.

Sharing economy and rooms – The sharing economy refers to the way assets and services are exchanged between people connected through the Internet.

AirBnB is an excellent example. In 2009, renting out accommodations through this platform did not exist as it does today. Through data from AirDNA, we know that there have been 433,894 rooms booked in 2019 for the Halifax region. This is an increase of 33 per cent from the year prior.

The demand is growing for other accommodations, too. The number of traditional hotel bookings increased 3.9 per cent in 2019, and the coming year will see the completion of new hotels. These new offerings are something Halifax needs right now as it becomes an increasingly sought-after destination.

Smart & Sustainable Growth – Perhaps the most significant change is our focus on smart and sustainable growth. This type of growth in the tourism industry can help improve financial well-being for our communities.

Discover Halifax has been shifting our focus on smart growth that helps improve the overall quality of life for residents throughout all of Halifax’s 210+ communities. We want to continue to invest in Halifax as a great place for visitors and for its citizens. We want to see sustainable growth that benefits everyone, and we want to improve our environment and quality of place.

I would like to end by congratulating all of the partners, businesses, and people who have contributed to the success of the past decade.