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Ross Jefferson

Ross Jefferson
President & Chief Executive Officer, Discover Halifax

The tourism industry is experiencing recovery and growth. Collaboration and planning amongst industry partners have contributed significantly to the positive signs of recovery throughout the summer and fall.

Summer 2021 was a critical turning point for the rebound of the tourism industry and the visitor economy. The ability to recover and grow greatly depended on visitation during the historically busiest season. As we reflect on the season gone by, we're inspired by the signs of recovery and confident that our industry is returning.

The road to recovery did not happen by chance. It required extensive planning, collaboration, innovation, and alignment with public health guidelines. This time last year, we knew that visitation during summer 2021 was critical, and we had to start preparing for the year ahead. Discover Halifax and tourism industry partners collaborated with the MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance at Dalhousie University to undertake tourism scenario planning. We facilitated this work with our partners, understanding that it would be difficult for our economy to rebound without the recovery of the tourism industry. Here’s what we learned:

  1. The likelihood of pent-up demand and rapid return of travellers was high, but potential labour shortages was identified as a risk.
  2. The region faced a lack of planned events. Animation needed to be activated to create vibrancy throughout the summer.
  3. A lack of marketing to highest ROI markets meant prospective travellers might not visit. We had to be ready when the time was right.

Taking action

As the Destination Marketing Organization for Halifax, Discover Halifax took what we learned from scenario-planning and used it to inform our approach to market the destination and encourage travellers to visit Halifax. We kept within the Maritimes when required and expanded into national markets when the time was right. In the last six months, we've developed and launched three key marketing campaigns: Haliday, Never Have I Ever and Reconnections.

The Reconnections campaign, which ran from July to September, was more extensive and further afield than any other campaign in the organization’s history, focusing on the Greater Toronto Area and Urban Alberta. Based on our research, interest from those markets has increased significantly, and initial results from our pre-and-post campaign study show that there has been an 8 per cent increase in people in those markets who’ve added Halifax to their destination-of-choice lists.

In response to finding ways to animate the region, we worked with our partners to help support the Patio Lanterns Festival. The inaugural festival was a success and grew to be a province-wide initiative. In Halifax, approximately 85 venues participated and hosted more than 300 live performances, contributing to regional vibrancy throughout the summer and fall.

And what we've seen is that our collective efforts have helped with recovery. One indicator of success has been hotel occupancy and rates of daily stays. The numbers were steady throughout the summer and into fall. While we’re now seeing the occupancy rate slowing down again, the trends we’ve been seeing are promising.

Hotels for reovery feature

Continued signs of recovery

Looking ahead into the fall and early winter, we've welcomed back Never Have I Ever campaign for a fall installment. Our local businesses need all the support they can get, and we're happy to work with our partners to do our part and get people out and about to enjoy all things Halifax. We're also welcoming the Evergreen Festival back for its second season. Finally, looking ahead to 2022, our Group Sales team is projecting a promising number of meetings and events coming to Halifax. It's a positive sign to see our business travellers returning.

And there are other positive signs of recovery as well. For example, WestJet is starting to resume flights to Halifax, and Air Canada just announced Halifax to Heathrow will return in spring 2022.

No industry was hit harder than tourism throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but the tides are turning, and we have momentum. We're in this together, and we will continue to do our part to strengthen the tourism industry and our community. We all benefit when our economy is thriving.