Patrick Sullivan, CEO of the new Nova Scotia Tourism Agency (NSTA)
Question: Can you provide a brief update on the progress of establishing the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency (NSTA) office in Windsor?
We are making progress toward the move to Windsor late this year. Renovations are now underway on the site of the former Black Bear Tavern, which will be our new home.
We are also continuing to build our Tourism team. We have such bright, hard-working staff, and we are pleased to have recently added several key members.
There are still a few vacancies that we are looking to fill over the short term. We are looking for dedicated individuals who have the skills and talent to join us in helping to build the industry. Those who are interested can watch Career Beacon for details on upcoming positions.
(Left) Patrick Sullivan, CEO of NSTA,(Middle) Donna Hatt, Marketing & Product Development Manager at White Point Beach Resort, (Right) Star Dobson, CTV Reporter
The changes we have been making in the transition to the agency, including the move to Windsor, have been significant, and we appreciate everyone’s patience as we continue to evolve. To our industry members and partners, it will mean improved service and access to the information and tools you need.
Question: The new Tourism Strategy has just been released; can you recap what the main areas of focus are moving forward? And how is this approach different?
The NSTA is a new, more collaborative, partnership between government and industry that is working to grow tourism in the province. The long-term strategy is our plan for the next five years to deliver on the goals of increasing visitors to Nova Scotia and raising revenues.
The new strategy for tourism – a strategy for the entire industry – is based on five strategic pillars for growth guided by a strategic goal: we will focus on the visitor – attract more of them, and encourage them to spend more and stay longer – to increase industry profitability.
Tourism Strategy – Nova Scotia Tourism Agency
We have five main areas of focus:
- Leadership & Collaboration – This is our opportunity to shift the mindset of the province to a more visitor-focused approach and to build pride in the value of the visitor economy.
- Inspirational, strategic marketing – We will introduce a compelling Nova Scotia tourism brand that creates an emotional connection with potential visitors, differentiates Nova Scotia from its competitors, and aligns with the overall provincial brand.
- Evidence-based decision-making – Research will be at the core of all our strategic decision-making. We will capture and interpret marketing intelligence to invest in the best opportunities for the most profit and economic impact.
- Higher-quality product and experiences – To inspire and motivate new first-time visitors while meeting visitor expectations, we will raise the bar on the product and experience offering in Nova Scotia, and strategically invest to drive growth.
- Improved access to Nova Scotia and throughout the province – We will actively support initiatives to build access to the province that will bring new visitors to Nova Scotia through all modes of transportation and improve the visitor experience.
Our strategic goal will lead us as we strive to make the tough, strategic decisions. It will be the role of the NSTA to focus on first-time pleasure visitors to Nova Scotia, to clearly communicate our message to visit Nova Scotia.
We can’t do this alone. Everyone has a role to play – the NSTA, government and industry – we need to continue to establish clear roles and responsibilities for each of them in order to succeed.
Question: What can operators do to support the new Tourism Strategy?
As I mentioned, the NSTA is focused on attracting first-time visitors from outside the region to Nova Scotia.
Industry is in the best position to form strong relationships with those visitors – to ensure they come back, and continue to build our repeat business. We need them to target repeat visitors through their own communication channels and networks – digital and traditional – to invite them to come back.
To compel these visitors to return, operators can align their business with the new tourism brand by downloading the guidelines from the tourism website at www.novascotiatourismagency.ca. They can also access our image library.
Industry should work with the Regional Tourism Industry Associations to target Atlantic Canadians and showcase all there is to see and do in their region. To get them here and move them around the province, industry must be trade ready. We need to improve the quality of our experiences and accommodations to meet the expectations of those visitors. We can help operators get there by providing them with the right tools, and even a mentor.
Our trade and media fam tours are a great way to attract travel trade and journalists, who can help us tell the world about everything we have to offer. We need industry to participate in these fam tours with discounts and special offerings. The more media we can bring to the province, the more valuable exposure we’ll receive.
Research shows that the number one category of visitor activity in the world is shopping, dining and entertainment in a pedestrian-friendly, intimate setting – this is the activity that takes place in your downtowns. In fact, this is where 80 per cent of all non-lodging tourism spending takes place.
Downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Capitol City
To help operators, we have revamped our Tourism Development Investment funding for destination development. The First Impressions funding program supports the development of attractive, distinctive and visitor-friendly downtowns. A second program, Competitive Edge, gives priority to new products, experiences, or projects that enhance market-readiness, visitor experiences or the quality of existing product in Nova Scotia’s most competitive destinations.
Our focus will be on those projects targeting high-yield markets, such as outdoor, culinary and cultural enthusiasts. Industry members can go to our website to learn more about the programs and how to apply. We can help industry create packages, itineraries and experiences focused on what makes their part of Nova Scotia unique in the region and the world.
Operators can also develop experiences and packages around UNESCO opportunities, festivals and events, and new products like the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail in Cape Breton, or the upcoming Halifax to Lunenburg trail cycling tourism development.
UNESCO World Heritage Site – Joggins Fossil Cliffs, Nova Scotia
We also know that the convention centre is coming. The meetings and conventions market works up to five years ahead. We should be developing our products, experiences and itineraries now to capture these visitors when the centre opens in 2016.
For more information and inspiration on how to develop experiences, download our Experience Toolkit on the tourism website. Once they are ready, we can promote them on www.novascotia.com for free!
These are just a few concrete things industry can do to help us reach our strategic goal. We really want our industry members to reach out to NSTA staff to discuss their ideas. Operators can get information on all of these initiatives or get contact details on our new industry website at www.novascotiatourismagency.ca.
Our focus is to help provide industry with the tools they need to build their business, and provide direction on reaching those visitors that will help us become more competitive as an industry.
We need to collaborate much more effectively to achieve the results we are seeking. We all need to be moving in the same direction – together.
Question: Lately there’s been a lot of media attention around unlicensed properties in Nova Scotia, what can industry and government do to ensure that the right product is being promoted to customers?
I prefer to think of this in a positive way. There have been unlicensed properties around for decades and they represent a very small proportion of the 2.5 million room nights in the province. The NSTA only promotes accommodations that are approved through one of the three quality programs: the Nova Scotia Quality Standards Program; CAA; and Canada Select. With over 2,000,000 people who visit our website annually, and growing, I believe that licensed properties will get the exposure they deserve. We have a great partnership with the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS), on the Nova Scotia Approved program, which helps set the benchmark standards for quality.
Nova Scotia Approved Quality Assurance Program
Only approved and licensed accommodations are eligible to be promoted in our provincial marketing or participate in any of our partnership opportunities. We want to ensure that the product we take to market meets all the required quality standards and government regulations. On www.novascotia.com and in the Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide, we make sure our visitors know what they’re getting.
Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide – Nova Scotia
But it’s so much more than just meeting requirements. It’s about meeting and exceeding visitors’ expectations. Quality is so important in our industry. In order to keep up with tourism destinations around the world, it is essential to satisfy our visitors’ needs. We all need to work together to ensure we are delivering only the best products, experiences and customer service.
The quality of the visitor’s experience is influenced by every interaction with a destination – from pre-trip information, the quality of privately and publicly offered products and services, and post-trip follow-up. Again, everyone has a role to play.
Question: What is NSTA doing to improve the quality of the tourism product in Nova Scotia?
As part of the long-term tourism strategy, we are focused on raising the bar of our product and experiences to capture the imagination of potential first-time visitors, and make Nova Scotia a must-see destination.
We are changing the way we work with industry to accomplish this, moving from reactive to impactful. For instance, I mentioned earlier the new funding programs we have implemented with a much more strategic-driven application process. In alignment with our tourism strategy, these programs give priority to new products, focused on quality, market readiness and competitive destinations to motivate people to travel to Nova Scotia for the first time.
Our development team is also building a model to support the identification of tourism icons, to identify them and create multi-year development plans to ensure they are also meeting and exceeding expectations.
Our new tourism brand and marketing campaign are also ensuring we have the right message to promote the products and experiences that motivate first-time visitors. We need industry’s help to ensure we have a quality product to deliver on our brands promise.
As I quoted at the TIANS conference in November, Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. We can’t afford to be complacent. We want to work with businesses to help them become more competitive and innovative to grow the industry.
For instance, as part of our Bay of Fundy development plan, NSTA staff recently led a technical mission for organizations in East Hants to develop Burncoat Head. We travelled with these groups to Hopewell Rocks to see what New Brunswick is doing well – how they interpret, and how they’ve developed their site. We are working proactively with key industry partners in ways that respond very directly to their needs at almost no cost.
Only by working together to improve the quality of our product and experiences can we can achieve the goals laid out in the tourism strategy and see real industry growth.
TIANS would like to thank Mr. Sullivan for his feedback and we look forward to working with the NSTA to help build Nova Scotia’s economy into a thriving industry.