Burt Bacharach wrote the famous and catchy tune “Do you know the way to San Jose?” (Millennials google it).
This summer we should push for our own version here in New Brunswick: Do you know the way to Cap-Pelé?
The Premier of New Brunswick (and others) have mused about the possibility of opening up the province for internal movement before opening up provincial borders. In other words, it might become relatively safe to travel within New Brunswick before travel outside New Brunswick (and before the province can let in visitors from outside).
One thing most people agree on is that the tourism industry is going to suffer greatly this year as a result of fewer tourists.
Maybe there is a small silver lining to this.
The bottom line is that for every dollar external tourists spend in New Brunswick, New Brunswickers are spending more than a dollar as tourists in other jurisdictions. Mathematically, if every dollar New Brunswickers spent outside the province last year was spent on the same kinds of expenditures in the province this year (hotels, restaurants, entertainment, recreation, historic sites, etc.) the output from tourism might actually increase over last year.
Here are the interprovincial/international imports and exports for selected services related to tourism. The data is from 2016 because there is a lag in publication from Statistics Canada. You can see for all of these categories except heritage institutions and prepared meals, New Brunswick is in a trade deficit.
Another way to look at it is the value of exports relative to the value of imports. The chart shows the amount of export revenue (people coming in and spending money here) per dollar of import revenue (New Brunswickers going out). For every dollar of admissions to live performing arts that New Brunswickers spend elsewhere (i.e. to see Hamilton in Toronto), tourists to New Brunswick spend only 21 cents in here. For every dollar New Brunswickers spend on hotels and motels elsewhere, tourists to New Brunswick spend only 62 cents in here.
Again, in theory at least, if New Brunswickers turned their full tourism spend inward it could make for a great 2020 season.
Of course, this is naive. Many New Brunswickers are not going to be interested in travel anywhere – even if they are told it is safe. And that is certainly OK. One of the unknowns coming out of Covid-19 will be how quickly consumer spending comes back on services that are not considered essential (relatively essential, I suspect people will be getting hair cuts).
But for those that do travel, visiting elsewhere in New Brunswick is a really good idea. If you are from Saint John, when was the last time you visited Saint-Quentin? How often does the average Frederictonian visit the Acadian Peninsula? Or the typical Edmundstonian visit Saint John?
My mother lives in the Miramichi a 70 minute drive to the Acadian Peninsula and she has been there twice in her life – one when she was 15 and the other when she was in her late 70s (she told me things have changed a bit).
Because the divide between urban/rural and French/English New Brunswick is an interest of mine professionally I routinely ask people from the south how often the visit the north for business or vacation. Almost always the answer is rarely or never. When my kids have their friends over – same question – same answer with the exception of those travelling for sports/music, etc.
If Covid-19 led to us getting to know each other a little better that would be a small but important win out of this.
Maybe we should create a passport where people get a stamp for every community they visit – McAdam, Nackawic, Boiestown, Saint-Quentin, Dalhousie, Petit Rocher, Baie-Sainte-Anne, Rogersville, Dorchester, Alma, Sussex or Tracy. Those living in the big city get out and visit smaller towns and villages. Those living in the south take a drive up north – Christmas mountains to Saint-Quentin – over to Edmundston and down through potato country.
I’m not a big fan of closed borders – as anyone who reads this blog will know. But if there is a good reason to close the border – then we should take advantage of opportunities that arise.
By the way, Cap-Pelé is a really nice community with great beaches and friendly people – and an increasing amount of immigrants.
To paraphrase Burt Bacharach:
You can really breathe in Cap-Pelé
They’ve got a lot of space
There’ll be a place where I can stay
I’m going back to find
Some peace of mind in Cap-Pelé