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Inverness Airport and Intermodal


July 22, 2019

The debate of late regarding a new publicly funded airport in Inverness has created a great deal of public discourse. And as is often the case, the substantive issues on this topic become blurred in the passion of the discussion.

From a tourism perspective, the growth of tourism in Inverness has been impressive and the investments made to date are helping revitalize a rural community transitioning from an industrial era to one with a strong tourism economy. There are examples of how tourism does this in communities all over Nova Scotia. A close example to Inverness is the community of Guysborough that is being transformed by significant private sector investment that has created a number of tourism assets and manufacturing businesses exporting products all over North America. Rural tourism is increasingly promoted around the world as a means of diversifying rural economies, spreading economic benefits and as a means of stabilizing rural populations. The impact of current investments in rural Nova Scotia is not in question nor is the significant economic benefit derived from tourism in Nova Scotia. In 2018, tourism generated $2.6 billion in revenue and generated over $300 million in tax revenue for all levels of government to fund important social services.

In 2016, TIANS published a document “Tourism Works for Nova Scotia” in response to the ambitious goal of $4 billion in revenue set out in the “Now or Never” Report. TIANS identified potential Game Changers for the tourism industry in Nova Scotia; this included the need to develop an Intermodal Strategy for tourism that looks at how we move visitors throughout the Province and the interdependent relationship between transport and tourism. The report identified the importance of appropriate Air Charter strategies in context of existing assets and commercial economic opportunities.

Nova Scotia has 21 airports, 11 with asphalt, the remainder are gravel and grass. With regular scheduled service only in Halifax and Sydney, there is considerable under-utilized infrastructure in place to provide scheduled and chartered service. JA Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport has two run-ways, 7,070’ and 6,000’; Allan J. MacEachern Port Hawkesbury has a 5,000’ runway; both are capable of accommodating various sizes of commercial aircraft.

The likely negative impact of establishing a new fully public-sector funded airport on the sustainability of existing airports in Cape Breton that are currently providing charter, commercial services, private and government agency (i.e., Coast Guard) air services throughout the region needs to be considered. Any deterioration in air access to Port Hawkesbury & Sydney could have serious adverse consequences to existing commercial activity and to the many significant projects at various stages of development in the region, dwarfing any incremental benefit to be derived from the contemplated Inverness airport.

The absence of a diverse user base for the proposed Inverness airport, its very limited operating season, its reliance on one local operator to attract clientele and on-going annualized operating expenses, are factors to consider. We have not seen the market research to make this case.

The public and private sector infrastructure required to get people into Nova Scotia and move trade is crucial to our long-term prosperity. The condition of our roads, our signage policies, our ability to take advantage of continued growth at both the Halifax and Sydney airports attracting additional flights to NS, and our use of rail and ferry access are all part of a broader transportation discussion that needs to take place in support of Nova Scotia’s economy.

In the absence of an air and intermodal strategy for Nova Scotia and the potential harm to existing air assets and regional growth, TIANS is urging both the federal and provincial governments to reconsider any public investment at this time.

In reviewing the program criteria for the Rural and Northern Communities Fund which is reviewing this application, it appears that there are a number of areas that can be considered and we would suggest a more strategic, thoughtful and consultative approach regarding major tourism investments for Nova Scotia.

Submitted by:
Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS)
Darlene Grant Fiander, President