Saint John — You may have noticed a lot more tourists in Saint John so far this summer. This trend has not gone unnoticed by Tourism SJ, who published a study on Tuesday based on survey results from recent visitors. “We’ve noticed that there has been an increase in visitors to Saint John,” said Tourism SJ researcher John MacKelvin, “and we were as surprised as anyone.” The number of first-time visitors to Saint John appears to have risen to 132, which represents a 22-percent year-on-year increase.
This welcome change comes after a slump in visitor numbers last year following a sharp reduction in summer cruise ship visits. Hank McGillivray, who sells candy replicas of the Reversing Falls Bridge at the City Market, has also noticed an increase in passing trade. “Usually I would sell 10 or 15 of these genuine imitation candy replicas in a season,” he said, “but I’ve already sold 9 this month! I’ve never had it so good. Whatever Tourism SJ has been doing seems to be working.”
When asked about the possible causes for the increase, MacKelvin thoughtfully replied, “Well, it appears that recent tourism ads by Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism have really benefited us. Many of those polled had accidentally booked flights to Saint John instead of St. John’s.”
MacKelvin went on to say that Newfoundland and Labrador has poured almost $100 million into advertising in the last 9 years. These sophisticated ads have had a significant impact, with some of them being broadcast as far away as New Jersey and Alberta. “This is really an unexpected bounty for us, which is great, as our budgets have been slashed in recent years and there’s no way that we could afford such slick productions.”
Shane Logan, a taxi driver with Cabs-R-Us, confirmed that people arriving at the Saint John airport expecting to be in St. John’s, NL is a common occurrence. “We always get people flying in to the airport asking to be brought to the Sheraton,” said Logan, “but we just take them to the Hilton instead I mean, unless they want us to drive them to St. John’s, but who has that kind of money?”
Coun. Jean Oakley, who chairs the committee responsible for tourism in the Port City, was enthusiastic about the findings. “This shows that tourism can really be a major growth sector for us,” she said, “and we are excited to see what Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism comes out with next.”
“This strategy shouldn’t really come as a surprise,” said MacKelvin. “After all, Sydney, Nova Scotia has been profiting from Australian Board of Tourism initiatives for many years.”