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International Ferry Link … what we need now

August 1, 2016

International Ferry Link … what we need now

Nova Scotia is Canada’s Ocean Playground and the essence of who we are has been defined and rooted by our connection to the sea – our communities, our businesses, our way of life. For over 100 years prior to the abrupt cancellation in 2009, there had been international ferry service into the United States; at one point two ferries plied the waters from Nova Scotia into both Portland and Bar Harbour.

Over the years passenger traffic exceeded well over 100,000 annually, dropping to a low of 75,000 passengers in the last year of ferry service. In 2009 the estimated value of this business for the province was $33 million in direct expenditures – even while the US was recovering from the worst recession since the great depression.

Visitors are an economic gift to this province.

In 2014, tourism generated over $2.1 billion resulting in over $260 million in tax revenue; this revenue is used to fund social services like health care, education, and improvements to public infrastructure. For every $1 spent, another $3.2 is generated in the community.

Transportation infrastructure plays a critical role in Nova Scotia’s Tourism Industry. Air, rail, ground and water are all essential modes of transportation for access into the province. The ongoing conversations regarding an International Ferry Link into the United States have to be looked at in totality, from both an economic as well as a social perspective.

Right now, the public conversation about the ferry focuses on two issues; the value of the International Ferry Link to the United States, and the role of government to make the right investments and negotiate the best deal for Nova Scotia taxpayers.

From a tourism perspective, having direct marine access into the United States is a tremendous opportunity. The eastern seaboard of the US has a population of 113 million people – that’s 3 times the size of our country’s population. This particular entry point provides a route into Nova Scotia that is having a significant impact on the distribution of how tourism receipts can change the economic landscape for rural Nova Scotia.

The second part of the public conversation is around the deal government has made on behalf of all of us.

The truth is, it will take time to rebuild business and we need to acknowledge that we are recovering from five years of instability and some poor decision making. Nova Scotians deserve to understand the deal and we would encourage ongoing transparency and accountability for economic growth. There are already some significant returns being realized – 1900 room nights sold, over 50 new direct jobs with the ferry and more than 40 Nova Scotia businesses supplying the ship with goods and services, including fuel purchases worth $4.3 million.

Having access to the lucrative US market provides an incredible opportunity to increase export dollars coming into Nova Scotia. However, we need a concerted and coordinated effort. We need to restore confidence that the link will be in place. We need to develop niche products that encourage extension of the season especially in early June and later in the fall. We also need to see an improvement in quality as we attract high yield visitors and encourage repeat visitation.

So what we really need now is to rally around the International Ferry Link to ensure the return far exceeds our investment in this marine highway. We are confident that with the right approach, the right operator and support from the various stakeholders, this will once again be a successful link improving the economy throughout all regions of the province.

And now – let’s get on board!

Glenn Squires, Chairman
Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia