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Ross Jefferson

Ross Jefferson
President & Chief Executive Officer, Discover Halifax

As the marketing agency for the Halifax Region, we can appreciate how hard it is to plan for the upcoming summer season. Here are a few reasons why we have worked on different scenarios and planning to be ready for any outcome.

Like many of you, Discover Halifax is trying to plan our own activities and decide when we should launch our marketing campaigns. When will it be ok to travel? When will travel restrictions be removed? Will people want to travel?

While we don’t know with certainty, we are following the hints that we may have a much stronger season ahead for this year and I am happy to share our thoughts with you.

First, we know the vaccine is a game-changer.

As it stands now, the latest projections are that all Canadians will have their first shot by the end of June. This is obviously great news and is expected to have a dramatic impact on total case counts and transmissibility as well as protecting vulnerable populations. Even our leading public health officials are optimistic, for example, Dr. Bonnie Henry indicated we could be living in a “post-pandemic world” by the summer and Dr. Theresa Tam said, “We can be really increasingly optimistic in our outlook”. Even as we speak, the pipeline of different vaccines is being approved not only adding to the supply but also improving the ease of distribution like the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine.

Second, there is pent-up demand for travel.

Many surveys are pointing to pent-up demand for travel with expected travel increasing in 2021 with Visiting Friends and Relatives driving much of this interest. In a recent report from Destination Canada, 80% of Canadians expect to travel when restrictions are relaxed. The report also discusses a potential windfall as Canadians spend $40 billion on travel outside of Canada while International travellers spend $23 billion coming into Canada. As the report points out, if Canadians shift some of their planned international leisure travel it will make up for the shortfall currently facing the visitor economy. It will help support local jobs and accelerate recovery by one year.

Finally, we have earned the “Pole Position” in the race to open.

We have worked hard to keep our community safe from COVID-19 and this has earned us a reputation of being safe and created an environment for us to be ready for opening. While other regions continue to deal with outbreaks, we can focus our attention on getting ready for opening. There is no question, at some point in our future, we should expect to see community celebrations and major public events as we re-open and our hard work should allow us to have a head start on this work.

This philosophy is driving our most recent thinking as we are discussing the potential for a strong lineup of events and programming in our region this summer. While we still have to wait to be sure these are safe, we are actively discussing plans for this summer. We have this unique opportunity to leverage this head start.

Scenarios and Planning

So, we are optimistic given the hints we have shared with you, but we do realize there are threats and risks we need to continue to monitor. While we believe our game plan “A” at Discover Halifax is based on a strong recovery and opening of Canadian Markets this summer, we will continue to make sure we act to protect our community should there be setbacks arising from things we have not anticipated.

We are leading with the philosophy that we would rather be ready for what we think is going to happen and have to move to Plan “B” than to not be ready at all. As key suppliers in this industry, we encourage our members to think about getting ready with your Plan A and B.