SACKVILLE, N.B. – Tourism numbers were on the rise this summer in Sackville, with staff at the local visitor information centre reporting a strong start to the season in May and June followed by a fairly steady flow of traffic during their busiest months of the year – July and August.
Ron Kelly-Spurles, Sackville’s tourism manager, said the town saw a four to five per cent increase overall from last year’s numbers, similar to what is being reported for the region and the province for 2013.
Kelly-Spurles said the season got off to a good start in May in particular with numbers up by 24 per cent over last year. The VIC welcomed 438 ‘parties’ to kick off the season; then continued to see good numbers into June, when numbers were up significantly with 700 ‘parties’ visiting the centre.
July and August remained busy as well, with just over 1,100 ‘parties’ coming into the VIC during each of those months, showing a slight increase over 2012’s tourist season.
“I think it’s been as good as it usually is, and maybe even a little better,” he said.
Regional traffic from the Maritimes was strongest this year, with the VIC reporting numbers for New Brunswick visitors in particular being up significantly. The VIC also had a steady stream of visitors from Quebec as well as tourists from other parts of Canada but traffic from the US and other foreign countries was down.
Kelly-Spurles said there’s no way to really determine what brought about the increase in tourist traffic this year but he says staff will be working on putting more mechanisms in place in 2014 to find out more about why visitors have made the stop in Sackville.
He said the continuing rise in Maritime traffic can likely be attributed to the marketing and promotion of town events through measures like the regional tourist guide as well as the municipality’s attendance at the Halifax tourism trade show. He said it’s easy to draw people here when they see the abundance of activities and attractions that are available here.
“For a small town, we have an awful lot of stuff going on.”
From theatre shows to musical performances, as well as an array of restaurants, art galleries, specialty shops and outdoor cafes downtown as well as quaint accommodations, Sackville has plenty to offer visitors.
“Sackville continues to be known as an arts and theatre place . . . “
Kelly-Spurles pointed out that the VIC numbers don’t tell the whole story of tourism activity in Sackville. Not every visitor that comes to Sackville makes a stop at the tourist bureau, he said, with many of them visiting the town for a specific event.
The Saturday morning farmers’ market, for example, draws many people in from throughout the region each week and is becoming a regular destination for many people in the spring and summer months.
The same can be said for the local theatre performances that also attract audiences from all over – the wide array of shows put on by Live Bait, Performers’ Company and Will ‘o’ the Wisp, just to name a few.
Kelly-Spurles said the tourism department is working in partnership with local stakeholders to bring in even more visitors to the community through a strategic plan that was developed earlier this year.
The aim of the plan is to get more people from the VIC or the highway commercial area into the downtown to show them how much Sackville has to offer.
“We figure if we can get them to get into Sackville and get them out of their car, then they will likely stay a while,” he said.
The tourism committee hopes to capture potential visitors at the highway commercial area by having local “ambassadors” find ways to bring them to the downtown area, perhaps offering them coupons and recommending places to visit.