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On World Tourism Day, we explore what tourism means to our community.

World Tourism Day—celebrated annually on September 27— is an initiative led by the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization to raise awareness of tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic value.

As the destination marketing organization for Halifax, Discover Halifax works to attract leisure and business travellers to our region. While we do this because we believe that Halifax is one of the best places to live, work, study, and visit, tourism is also vital to our community. Tourism boosts the economy's revenue, creates thousands of jobs, helps to develop infrastructure and plants a sense of cultural exchange between citizens and visitors.

“Tourists are the lifeblood”

In recognition of World Tourism Day, two local business owners—Mark Moore of Halifax Surf School in Musquodoboit, and Adriana Afford from Argyle Fine Art— share how tourism impacts their businesses and the broader community.

“Tourists are the lifeblood of small beachside communities like Musquodoboit that have a low-population density,” says Moore. “Without intra-provincial and out-of-province visitors coming to visit a few months per year, many businesses like mine couldn’t survive. The influx of visitors is just enough for people to maintain a proper business.”

Moore adds that attracting visitors to the Musquodoboit region creates a “spill-over” and creates secondary economic benefits. “People come and they spend money on gas, buy ice cream, book accommodations, support local artisans, and that creates a far-reaching impact in our community.”

He says despite the pandemic, business has been thriving for him. “We’ve been fortunate in that things have opened up during our peak season. We’ve seen a massive increase in people looking for bucket-list items, or people looking to engage with natural resources a bit more.”

Cultural exchange of experiences

For Afford, who owns the popular art gallery in downtown Halifax, the cultural exchange of experiences is an invaluable aspect of tourism.

“Art has a way of creating an emotional connection. It’s exciting for visitors to visit our gallery and have the chance to engage ideas and learn from them, and in turn, help them learn about our community and culture. It’s fun to show off our community because we love it and have pride in where we are from.”

She adds that visitors often take a piece of work home with them to mark their time in Halifax or to share with family and friends, which means they are supporting her business and the local artists on display.

Afford too has started to see signs of recovery with both visitors and locals returning to the gallery and spending time in the space, treating it like a community hub for gathering. While the past 18 months have not been easy, a silver lining has been creating a new art tour that gives people a chance to see art throughout the city.

“Art tours are a popular way to see cities throughout the world, so we’re pleased to finally be able to do this in Halifax,” says Afford. “It helps people see the city through the eyes of an artist, see that art is all around them and also learn more about other local businesses and experiences in Halifax.”

A unified, community-first approach

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic's devastating impact on the tourism industry, it remains one of the fastest-growing industries globally, bringing prosperity and opportunities to the prepared communities. Halifax's Integrated Tourism Master Plan (ITMP) has the region well-positioned for recovery and growth.

Launched in early 2021, the ITMP was developed to drive and prioritize the efforts and investments to recover sustainable economic growth from the region's tourism economy. Smart communities understand that an unforgettable experience as a visitor is the best way to attract the finest talent, a future neighbour, colleague or friend. But we must take a collective approach to create meaningful impact that benefits everyone. Success will depend on the alignment of our tourism industry leaders, government, and community.

Halifax’s ITMP is helping to chart a course that supports broader community goals and helps build a place not just for tourists but for everyone. We know that we can all benefit from economic and social growth driven by a safe, fun and innovative tourism industry. And that’s something to celebrate on World Tourism Day.