Representing industry on the Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism Board, as well as with respect to the federal and provincial governments, Hospitality NL strives to ensure the interests of our members are considered. Ranging from access and transportation to the sustainable use of our province’s resources, we remain determined to promote the best interests of the industry and our members.
All tourism stakeholders, industry and government, have a part to play in executing our provincial tourism strategy outlined in Vision 2020 and there are several key components to the success of that strategy.
- Developing the destination as well as the tourism product and experiences we offer
- Ensure a consistent high standard of quality that meets guests’ expectations
- Cultivating a professional workforce who can deliver on those expectations
- Inspiring travellers to visit our destination through effective marketing
Product/Experience & Destination Development
In order to market the province’s tourism industry, Hospitality NL works towards the development of products and experiences that build on what the traveller is looking for, as well as the unique offerings of our members. On the road to building products and experiences that build on Newfoundland and Labrador’s unique strengths and respond to traveller preferences, Hospitality NL’s areas of focus are:
- Ensuring a critical mass of authentic attractions and experiences with supporting infrastructure and service in the right locations, to respond to market demands and expectations.
- Developing multi-season tourism demand to help achieve sustainable, viable tourism products.
- Balancing people’s desire to travel with the need to protect our natural environment.
These challenges also provide opportunities for Newfoundland and Labrador to develop a consistent and high-quality traveller experience through product development, infrastructure, and environmental sustainability.
Coming out of Vision 2020’s Strategic Direction #4 – Experience Development, the Destination Development Process, lead by Hospitality NL and partners on the NL Tourism Board, assisted in identifying the opportunities in each region of the province, how they may be linked, and what the priorities may be.
The 2017-20 Provincial Tourism Product Development Plan reflects the collective private-public tourism development priorities for the provincial tourism industry and the Regional Destination Development Plans. The focus of provincial tourism product development is on enhancing and creating high quality, high value people and program-based experiences that celebrate our people, place and culture.
With the goal of doubling tourism revenues by 2020 as outlined in Vision 2020, it has never been more necessary for tourism stakeholders to evaluate and raise the standards of Newfoundland and Labrador tourism experiences, services and attractions that we are reliant upon to achieve our goal. As the tourism industry in Newfoundland and Labrador grows, it is essential that tourism services and attractions also grow in a strategic way to meet the quality expectations for customer assurance and market readiness.
Achievement of the Vision’s goal of doubling tourism revenues can only be attained with a commitment from industry and stakeholders to do what is necessary to attract more high-yield travellers and yield more revenue from them once we get them here. To ensure we are maximizing each opportunity, it is important that all tourism services and attractions in the province be prepared and equipped with a minimum level of quality and market readiness to deliver the quality of experiences and services that travellers expect. Without standards that will guide operators in their market readiness and motivate them to deliver what travellers expect, opportunities to maximize revenue will be missed. In addition and equally as important, poor value delivery from services and attractions create negative experiences that, with the prevalence of word of mouth through social media, will impact the province’s long-term sustainability as a tourism destination.
In order to remain competitive and continue to elevate the quality of tourism services and attractions available in the province, Hospitality NL, along with partner organizations of the NL Tourism Board, launched the Tourism Assurance Plan (TAP) in 2013.
TAP is the first step in providing assurance to travellers about the quality of tourism services and attractions being promoted in the province and involves five common minimum standards that are aimed at promoting tourism organizations that provide quality travel experiences and assist tourism services and attractions improve the way they operate. In order for tourism services and attractions to participate in provincial marketing and development initiatives, qualify for membership in Hospitality NL and participate in partnership/membership activities with regional Destination Management Organizations, all tourism services and attractions must be TAP approved.
As the travel and tourism industry around the world continues to evolve, so too must tourism operators to meet the needs and expectations of today’s travel-savvy tourist. TAP helps ensure Newfoundland and Labrador’s tourism industry remains competitive and a top of mind destination among travellers.
In 2014, the Board of Directors of Canada Select Newfoundland and Labrador officially changed the name and bylaws of the organization to Tourism Quality Assurance of Newfoundland and Labrador (TQA) and, in doing so, adopted a broader mandate so that it can assume a more diverse role in quality assurance for the tourism industry in the province. Traditionally responsible for the implementation of the Canada Select/Camping Select rating program, the organization has evolved its governance and management structure so that it can adopt and implement other quality assurance programs that reflect the goals and priorities of the provincial tourism industry as defined by the partners of Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism Board and Uncommon Potential: A Vision for Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism. Through the introduction of the Access Advisor program as well as various welcome programs, TQA continues to demonstrate its commitment to expanding its quality assurance programming to further meet the needs of travellers in Newfoundland and Labrador. Learn more at www.tqanl.ca.
To achieve the growth outlined in Vision 2020, and to meet the evolving needs of travellers, tourism needs skilled, knowledgeable staff. Our people and communities must understand the importance of tourism to the province’s economic and social well-being, and the importance of their own roles in building our unique brand of service.
At the same time, our industry must deal with the province’s tight labour market, escalating cost of labour, navigating through red tape and understanding complex labour standards laws.
Like many other industries, tourism continues to experience stiff competition for workers amid rising labour shortages. In 2016, Tourism HR Canada and the Conference Board of Canada released the report Bottom Line: Labour Challenges Threaten Tourism’s Growth, projecting that by 2035, potential labour supply shortages in the tourism sector in Newfoundland and Labrador could reach 15.2%, leaving 3,016 jobs unfilled. Current projections suggest that the tourism sector could potentially support more jobs than workers will be available to fill. This means tourism in Newfoundland and Labrador will experience one of the most acute labour shortages of any province in Canada.
The projected labour shortages in the tourism sector are caused by the rising demand for labour during a period when the Newfoundland and Labrador labour force is expected to experience a sizable shift in its growth and composition. Traditionally, the tourism sector has relied heavily on young people as a source of labour. However, the rate at which young people are entering the labour force is decreasing, while competition to attract young workers is intensifying from other sectors of the economy.
Hospitality NL’s advocacy efforts include facilitating the transition into the workforce for underemployed persons and new immigrants, as well as streamlining Temporary Foreign Worker programs and the communication of programs and services available to assist tourism operators.
Tourism establishments throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, especially small tourism operators, are feeling the impact of recent increases in the minimum wage. Hospitality NL advocates to government for solutions to help tourism organizations deal with the upward pressure being exerted on all wages by the continued elevation of the minimum wage and other increases in the cost of labour. Hospitality advocacy efforts include working with members of the business community and other industry associations to establish a joint strategy regarding future minimum wage increases and ways to manage the rising cost of labour.
It was through a partnership between Hospitality NL and Government that Newfoundland and Labrador first established a competitive level of provincial marketing investment and developed Vision 2020.
Following cuts to the provincial tourism marketing budget in 2013, Hospitality NL worked to educate the general public and Government officials about the significant economic contribution of tourism, as well as its potential to grow and diversify the economy, effectively changing the perception of our industry and proving the case for investment. Tourism offers one of the most stable, revenue-generating industries in Newfoundland and Labrador and helps create a great place to live, visit, work and invest.
The Provincial Government eventually did reinvest the money in the tourism marketing budget, a step in the right direction towards growing the marketing budget to a competitive level. Marketing is an essential component to the future success of the provincial tourism industry and Hospitality NL will continue to work with Government to ensure the marketing investment grows to a competitive level to achieve industry’s collective vision of doubling annual tourism revenues by 2020.
Transportation & Sense of Arrival
Access and transportation continues to be a major strategic priority for the growth of the tourism industry. Travel to, from, and around the province, whether by sea, air, or road is often inhibited by issues of affordability, capacity, infrastructure and quality. Newfoundland and Labrador’s tourism industry depends on an accessible, affordable and reliable transportation system in order to grow.
As outlined in the 2017-20 Provincial Tourism Product Development Plan, a sense of arrival is the welcome and warmth that people feel once they have reached their destination. Efficient wayfinding, friendly service, warm and beautiful surroundings and a strong sense of place help industry meet and exceed the expectations of guests. Aspects of transportation, including roads, signage, trails and pedestrian infrastructure are all important sense of arrival experiences.
Hospitality NL has long advocated the need for investment in Marine Atlantic and as a direct result of Hospitality NL’s continued and effective advocacy strategy, the Government of Canada, in 2010, committed over $700 million to this vital ferry service to make much needed improvements to its fleet, infrastructure and customer service delivery. This significant investment has proven pivotal in the process of building the service into a much more reliable, efficient and effective transportation supplier.
The new vessels, the MV Highlanders and MV Blue Puttees were introduced into MAI’s fleet in 2011 replacing the aging MV Caribou and MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood and increasing Marine Atlantic’s capacity enabling them to better meet passenger demands as outlined in a Passenger Amenities study completed by Hospitality NL in 2008.
The ever-increasing cost to MAI users is very concerning. Passenger traffic has declined in each of the last few years, and has been on a downward trend since 2002. Non-resident automobile visitors, who use Marine Atlantic Inc. as the primary transportation supplier, are an important market segment for our industry and we cannot afford to lose ground in this significant market. Hospitality NL is further concerned about the increasing costs for commercial traffic as Marine Atlantic Inc. provides a link for operators to obtain the goods and services required to meet the needs of travelers.
Hospitality NL is calling for funding to be set at appropriate levels over an extended period of time to provide a stable base that enables longer-term planning, allows for pricing that does not erode the level of service or deter travellers and is sufficient to drive continuous improvement and cost efficiency in the service. Marine Atlantic Inc., a primary gateway for growing inbound tourism, is an essential link not only for the future growth and development of the tourism industry but also for all residents and industries. It is a critical enabler of private industry investment and with a solid commitment to sufficient, sustained funding Marine Atlantic Inc. can help drive job creation and economic diversity throughout Atlantic Canada.
Hospitality NL will continue to work closely with tourism stakeholders to ensure this vital link proves to be a safe, reliable mode of transportation that meets the evolving needs of travellers.
Provincial Ferry System
To fulfill Newfoundland and Labrador’s economic potential from tourism, it is essential that transportation infrastructure is at a standard that can sustain existing traveller needs and support future growth. A significant coordinated effort from all sectors of Government and industry is required to support the strategic development of our ferry services. Hospitality NL recognizes that provincial ferry services require investment in areas including fleet renewal, customer service, reservation system, highway and directional signage at and towards terminals, along with on-board tourism information availability.
While ferry vessel replacement, refit work and improvements to marine terminals and wharfs have occurred in recent years, work remains to be done and Hospitality NL is committed to working with regional and Government partner agencies including the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation and Transportation and Works to ensure the needs of the tourism industry are considered when addressing provincial ferry challenges.
Highway Signage, Wayfinding & Navigational Initiatives
Hospitality NL is supportive of a new signage policy that better equips travellers with the information necessary to navigate throughout the province. A signage system similar to those used in other parts of the world would be most conducive in this province as it is a proven system that would be familiar to those travelling. However, Hospitality NL is cognizant of tourism operators and residents desire to maintain the uniqueness that has made this province such a successful tourism destination and as such, believes a Tourist-Oriented Directional Signage (TODS) model that takes the unique nature and geography of Newfoundland and Labrador into consideration will yield the most success.
Hospitality NL will continue to engage with tourism operators for their input and work closely with Government officials to discuss the approach for developing, communicating and implementing a new policy, addressing other signage challenges (i.e. directional signage, provincial site/park signage, etc.) and the proposed cost to operators.
Working with our members, as well as numerous provincial and federal partners, Hospitality NL strives to develop a business environment that fosters growth and efficiency, instead of complex processes and unnecessary red tape.
Small and medium-sized businesses are not only the backbone of the tourism industry, they are the backbone of the Canadian economy. Yet, federal and provincial regulatory requirements force them to navigate through insurmountable paperwork, complex permitting processes, inflexible approval processes and other unnecessary red tape that impede the daily operations of their businesses.
Hospitality NL continues to work with provincial and federal partners to reduce unnecessary and burdensome administrative and regulatory requirements. Our goal is a globally competitive, innovative business environment that is conducive to efficiencies, job creation and growth.
Unlicensed Accommodations & the Sharing Economy
Criticism of the sharing economy often relates to regulatory issues, and here in Newfoundland and Labrador, the biggest impact is occurring in the accommodations sector.
The Sharing Economy
The sharing economy is defined as an economic model in which individuals are able to borrow or rent assets owned by someone else.1 While this sort of model has existed for many, many years, technology and the Internet have allowed the peer-to-peer (P2P) rental market to flourish, making it easier than ever for people to connect and facilitate the sharing of assets. These assets are oftentimes considered underused and the sharing economy allows physical assets to be shared as services (i.e. short-term rental of a vehicle or apartment when not in use by the owner).
The online platforms that are essential to the sharing economy are no longer newcomers in the market, but have over the past number of years, grown into leaders in their respective sectors of service, transportation and hospitality. Two of the most popular and relevant platforms in Canada are Uber, a ride sharing service that connects drivers and users, and Airbnb, a platform for sharing accommodations that connects hosts and guests. Airbnb was founded in 2008 and in the last eight years has grown to showcase over 2.3 million accommodation listings globally.2 Other examples include Etsy, a marketplace where people around the world connect, both online and offline, to make, sell and buy unique goods, and JustPark, an app and website that allows drivers to find, reserve and pay for parking in underused spaces.
Criticism of the sharing economy often relates to regulatory issues, and here in Newfoundland and Labrador, the biggest impact is occurring in the accommodations sector. Businesses that offer accommodation services are often regulated by federal, provincial and municipal laws. For example, under the Tourist Establishments Act in Newfoundland and Labrador, roofed accommodation providers must meet several requirements and obtain a Tourist Establishment License in order to operate. Platforms such as Airbnb make it easier for unlicensed accommodators to operate without following regulations or paying associated costs. This not only gives them an unfair advantage over licensed accommodators, but an unregulated environment puts consumers at risk and has the potential to negatively affect the overall quality of tourism offerings, not to mention the effect on already tight housing markets in larger cities. As a result, regulatory and policy conflicts continue to arise in towns, cities and provinces across Canada, including Vancouver, Toronto, Quebec and New Brunswick.
On November 17, 2016, Airbnb unveiled a new development on the platform with the launch of Trips.3 Trips moves beyond just accommodations and incorporates other aspects of a guest’s stay, including “experiences” and “places” (guide books, meet-ups and audio walks). With this expansion, and plans to include flights and other services in the future, Airbnb and the sharing economy culture has already begun to impact the broader tourism and travel industry.
Hospitality NL maintains that the key to success in the new reality of a sharing economy is EQUITY – ensuring all tourism and travel product providers operate in the spirit of legitimate competition and abide by all regulatory and licensing requirements in order to operate in the province. This includes regulatory, legal, taxation, health and safety and insurance laws. An in-depth review of existing regulations (i.e. the Tourist Establishments Act) in NL is required and collective solutions must be identified to ensure a fair and equitable business environment in which all businesses operate under proper regulation.
Plenty more research is required in order to determine how all stakeholders can continue to be successful in this operating climate. Major cities and jurisdictions across Canada, like Quebec, Toronto and Vancouver, are still struggling to find a successful method of regulating the sharing economy.
Next steps for Hospitality NL including collaborating with partners and stakeholders to understand the full impact of the sharing economy and how the provincial tourism and travel industry can address challenges and ultimately, thrive within it.
During Hospitality NL’s 2015 Annual General Meeting, a very clear mandate was given by the tourism industry that room/tourism levies decided upon in any jurisdiction should have the approval of those expected to implement the levy, the local accommodation operators, and that room/tourism levies should be industry led, focused and managed with the monies collected re-invested back into tourism marketing and tourism development. Throughout 2016, Hospitality NL held several industry consultation sessions concerning implementation models and management in all regions of the province, the results of which indicated that the opinion of tourism operators in the province remains unchanged on this issue. Hospitality NL has consistently communicated this position to the Government of NL as well as Municipalities NL and will continue to advocate on behalf of our membership on this important issue.
The tourism industry, like so many others, is dependent on the natural resources of Newfoundland and Labrador. Proper regulation, sustainable initiatives and cooperative usage between industries remain key aspects of Hospitality NL’s advocacy efforts.
Hospitality NL believes a balance must be found between the needs of the tourism industry and other resource-based industries. However, over the past number of years, many tourism operators have had competing uses for resources negatively impact their tourism experiences and investment.
Hospitality NL continues to be concerned with the lack of a comprehensive land use plan to resolve competing use conflicts throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. As a resource-based industry, tourism requires vision and stewardship for the planning and maintenance of landscapes and seascapes and the responsible development and protection of our natural outdoors and resources. Although Hospitality NL has been engaged with Government and other stakeholders over the past number of years to help resolve conflicts, dealing with individual issues does not address the lack of a provincial land use plan and the long term impacts on our industry.
Hospitality NL believes that a balanced approach must be taken between certain developments and the protection of natural tourism assets in our province that enhance the quality of life for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and serve as the foundation of other revenue-generating industries.