With bookings on the rise, Marine Atlantic hopes to participate and cash in on the tourist season
In what could be a sign that Newfoundland and Labrador is beginning to shake off the COVID-19 pandemic and get back to normal life, Marine Atlantic says bookings for 2022 are up more than tenfold from the previous year. last year – and are more than double a normal pre-pandemic year.
Darrell Mercer, head of corporate communications for the ferry service, told CBC News on Wednesday that around 8,000 ferry bookings were made between Jan. 1 and March 7 for the upcoming summer season, compared to less than 600 bookings. during the same period in 2021.
“We are already seeing significant interest in tourist travel this year,” Mercer said.
“Even when we go back to 2019 in a pre-COVID period, there were around 3,300 bookings, so we’re more than double what we did in a normal year.”
Many of the bookings had been made before Marine Atlantic began offering a discount on ferry crossings between May 15 and June 30, to help boost traffic ahead of peak tourist season, so more bookings could to be in lessons. Mercer said the goal is to generate new traffic and opportunities for Marine Atlantic while contributing to the province’s 2022 tourism campaign, which includes a homecoming year to encourage Newfoundland expatriates. Labrador to visit.
“We are very optimistic when we see these very large numbers of bookings so early in the year,” he said.
“[People are] traveling comfortable again and our hope, above all else, is that we will return to some sort of normal travel season. That’s what’s been missing for a few years.”
On the rise
Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador – which represents about 2,700 hard-hit tourism operators in the province – says the reduction is timely.
The industry has been devastated by COVID-19 with various travel and public health restrictions discouraging and – especially early in the pandemic – preventing travel to the province altogether.
Brenda O’Reilly, president of the group, said discounts like Marine Atlantic’s will help encourage visits to the province.
“Tourism is a vital part of Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy; a strong and thriving tourism industry brings greater prosperity to the province,” O’Reilly said in a news release Tuesday.
Travel agents in Newfoundland and Labrador have barely held up over the past two years, according to Derek Winsor, an agent with E&B Travel Service in St. John’s.
Winsor said his family was able to weather the storm, but others weren’t so lucky. A lot of agents pulled out of the business, he said — something he considered himself.
“Last fall, I had a really tough time and I really thought, ‘Should I stay with the company?'”
With the announcement last month that the province would drop its remaining public health mandates, Winsor said his phone started ringing again.
People are always cautious, he said, because different jurisdictions are at different levels of public health safety. But, he said, he hopes customers will start booking trips again soon. But he also gives some advice.
“Make sure whatever you do, you have an insurance policy that includes a COVID rider and a ‘cancel for any reason’ rider to protect whatever you are going to do, just in case there is another wave”, he mentioned.
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