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Fuelling a downturn

Ever-climbing gas prices have fewer visitors coming to Canada and theNova Scotia tourism industry is bracing for a possible downturn.

Ever-climbing gas prices have fewer visitors coming to Canada and the Nova Scotia tourism industry is bracing for a possible downturn.

“I’d be very surprised if everyone in the tourism industry isn’t holding their breath to see how things are going to turn out,” said Mike Kinley, owner of Pepperberry Bed & Breakfast in Halifax.

Kinley says they’re not just worried about fewer travellers, but across-the-board cost increases.

“It’s not just that higher oil costs makes flying more expensive and makes gas more expensive, it affects the whole economy,” said Kinley. “And those costs are going to be passed onto us in totally different ways.“

He said the costs tend to affect American visitors, while Canadian and European travellers have stayed constant.

A recent Statistics Canada report backs that up. March was the fifth straight month to set a record low in visitors to Canada.

Strangely, Nova Scotia has seen the opposite trend so far. Visitors from the U.S. are up 25 per cent, while domestic visitors are down nine per cent, according to the Department of Tourism.

But department spokeswoman Wendy Barnable said the first-quarter sample size is small and she expects the numbers to fall in line with national trends.

One bright spot for local tourism operators is the cruise ship market. The Halifax Port Authority expects 131 vessels to bring 215,000 to 220,000 cruise ship passengers to Nova Scotia this year — an increase of about 40,000 people.

-paul.mcleod@metronews.ca