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Ross Jefferson

Ross Jefferson
President & Chief Executive Officer, Discover Halifax

These are challenging times. The recent introduction and rapid spread of the corona virus is having a significant impact on people around the world.

First and foremost, our hearts go out to the people and families who have become seriously ill and those who have lost loved ones. We also want to recognize the impact this is having on the people in our healthcare systems who are working tirelessly to support those in need.

We also recognize the real effect this disease is having on people as a result of increased economic hardships. We need to recognize there are real impacts on people’s health and wellbeing if they are struggling to pay bills and provide food and shelter for their families. Although these impacts are not limited to the tourism sector, we know a significantly higher portion of people and businesses are in this industry.

Here in Halifax, spending from tourists is estimated to exceed $1.3 billion each year and today over 4,000 businesses employ over 34,000 people. The businesses dependent on this sector include the obvious ones like accommodations, restaurants, and tour operators but many more less obvious like laundromats, delivery companies, conference planners, and small retail establishments just to name a few.

To this point, we are fortunate that the progression of this disease has not been as widespread in Canada as with other countries. While this is possible to change, this has given us time to get better prepared and “flatten the curve”. We do see regions around the world have been successful at slowing the spread of the disease through restrictive measures of social distancing, limiting event sizes, and travel restrictions.

The unique challenge in this situation is that the very measures we need to put in place to limit the spread of this disease will have a direct and negative impact on the people who are dependent on the tourism industry. Let me be abundantly clear, we fully support the measures and guidance from our public health experts and our support is fully behind what needs to be done to protect everyone in Canada and Nova Scotia. What we are hopeful for is the additional support for those whose livelihood are dependent upon tourism. To date, we are encouraged by the discussions by our federal government.

We don’t know right now how significant the impacts will be in Nova Scotia or how long this will last, but we do know we will bounce back. Beyond the specifics of this situation, the fundamentals of our industry are strong. Apart from being one of the fastest growing industries in the world, we have a great destination, with great people leading our tourism business, and serving the visitor economy. Lastly, we have in our region the friendliest people welcoming visitors from around the world.