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‘We need quick action’: Kings approves $100,000 for Annapolis Valley tourism marketing

Like other businesses offering accommodations to the travelling public, the Slumber Inn in New Minas has taken a significant financial hit due to COVID-19. KIRK STARRATT
Like other businesses offering accommodations to the travelling public, the Slumber Inn in New Minas has taken a significant financial hit due to COVID-19. KIRK STARRATT

Municipal grant to support domestic multi-media campaign

COLDBROOK, N.S. —

Annapolis Valley accommodation providers need dollars and cents - and quick action.

That was the message to Kings County council when Slumber Inn Ltd. partner and owner Jaison Sandhu and general manager Loretta Buchanan made a recent presentation.

Sandhu said their situation is fairly reflective of other accommodation providers in the Annapolis Valley in light of travel restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although March, April and May are typically slow, the Slumber Inn in New Minas saw a 56 per cent decline in occupancy.

He said revenue is down more than 66 per cent over these three months. They have lost approximately $45,000 each month just by staying open. They’ve had to put expansion plans on the back burner. Savings are being depleted as capital that was to be used to expand has been needed to cover losses.

“Due to all kinds of restrictions, the leisure travel right now is down to zero. If there is any travel right now, it’s all essential,” Sandhu said, pointing out that this isn’t enough for them to stay afloat.

Domestic marketing needed

Buchanan said they remain concerned with a lack of marketing and advertising on the part of the province.

Since travel within Nova Scotia is possible, Tourism Nova Scotia has to start promoting travel within Nova Scotia to Nova Scotians. Accommodation providers are following all public health recommendations and are taking measures to keep their employees and the public safe.

Buchanan said they need all levels of government pushing together to help accommodation providers and other businesses that depend on tourism. She pointed out that PEI has been marketing to Nova Scotia even though borders were closed because “you have to plant the seed.”

“We need everybody to push because if we don’t get business started here, some of them are going to go belly-up. That’s the bottom line and that’s pretty scary,” Buchanan said.

A couple of days later, Kings County council received a request from the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce (AVCC) for a $100,000 grant from the municipality’s COVID-19 emergency reserve. The money would be used for a multi-media campaign including TV, radio, print, digital and social media advertising to promote Annapolis Valley tourism within Nova Scotia.

Time of the essence

AVCC executive director Judy Rafuse said in making the request that time is of the essence and it would be too late if council waited until the July monthly meeting to act.

In a staff report presented at a June 23 special meeting, deputy chief administrative officer Rob Frost said that, in terms of TV and digital ads, the chamber had a number of professionally produced promotions done last year that are ready to roll.

The AVCC has applied for $150,000 in funding from Tourism Nova Scotia through the federal Destination Canada Fund. This funding isn’t expected to be released until late July or early August, when it would be too late to launch a campaign for the 2020 tourism season.

Rafuse said the AVCC is also requesting $4,000 from the Town of Wolfville; $5,000 from the Town of Kentville, $2,000 each from the towns of Berwick and Middleton and $10,000 from the County of Annapolis. As of June 23, the chamber had yet to receive confirmation of funding from these municipalities. The Town of Annapolis Royal has contributed $1,000.

Rafuse said they have also requested non-monetary infrastructure like essential public washroom facilities from the other municipalities.

“We know dollars are tight everywhere,” Rafuse said. “Hopefully we’ll get some uptake from them as we have in the past.”

Coun. Pauline Raven said it’s important to be ensured that the towns are being asked for money and not just infrastructure. Everybody has to step up to the plate so the chamber can execute the campaign.

“You can’t purchase media ads with a toilet,” Raven said.

Campaign could expand

Raven asked if the campaign would be expanded if the chamber procures more funding. Rafuse said if a Maritime or Atlantic Canadian “bubble” is established – or if the province is opened to the rest of the country by the third week of July as Premier Stephen McNeil hopes – the TV campaign would be expanded across the Maritimes.

Much more digital advertising would be aimed at other areas of Canada where the Valley has traditionally drawn tourists from.


By the numbers

- Deputy CAO Rob Frost said an April Tourism Nova Scotia report indicates that 38 per cent of tourism revenue in the province is generated by Nova Scotians travelling within the province. However, this is largely due to events and sports tournaments that, for the most part, aren’t happening.

- Mayor Peter Muttart said Nova Scotians normally spend $800 million travelling outside the province, so there might be a chance to circulate some of that money within Nova Scotia.

- With the approval of the tourism marketing grant to the AVCC, the County of Kings has approximately $1.1 million remaining in its $1,845,000 COVID-19 emergency reserve.

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