And it’s all thanks to a new initiative introduced this year to help Canada celebrate its 150th anniversary – the free Discovery Pass.
“We are seeing record visitation numbers across the Parks Canada network,” said Roxanne Richard, partnering, engagement and communications officer with the Northern New Brunswick Field Unit for Parks Canada.
Compared to this time last year, visitation across Parks Canada sites is up by 12 per cent. Visitation to national historic sites specifically is up 28 per cent while national parks has experienced a 10 per cent increase.
“Parks Canada is thrilled that so many Canadians and visitors are making the most of their free Discovery Pass,” said Richard.
Visitors to the Aulac area certainly made the most of their free admission this summer – numbers were up significantly at Fort Beauséjour-Fort Cumberland national historic site. As of Aug. 24, the Fort had welcomed 14,025 visitors - an increase of 5,887 visitors or 72 per cent compared to the same time last year.
“It has been a very successful season and we were happy to welcome so many visitors from across Canada and beyond to our site,” she said.
Fortunately, said Richard, the increased traffic was anticipated and there was additional staff and extra supplies on hand to manage the extra business.
“Visitor feedback has been very positive and we are confident that many of them will be returning to Fort Beauséjour-Fort Cumberland as well as discovering other national historic sites and national parks.”
Richard said obviously the spike in tourism numbers can largely be attributed to the free pass but she did point out that visitation at the Fort has been increasing over the last couple of years. In 2016, for example, the historic site saw an increase of approximately 20 per cent over 2015.
“We were expecting this trend to continue going into 2017 and we are thrilled with the number of new and returning visitors that have come to discover the site to learn more about our diverse history,” she said. “The free Discovery Pass and the buzz created around Canada 150 celebrations certainly played an important part in the increase in visitation. Parks Canada has also increased promotions efforts and focused on developing new visitor experiences that are also contributing factors to this success.”
Fort Beausejour will continue to be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Sept. 4 and will also be open select days in September for special activities and events.
Richard said over six million free 2017 Discovery passes have been distributed since Dec. 1, 2016. More than 14 million people have streamed through the gates of national parks and historic sites between Jan. 1 and July 31. That’s an increase of more than 1.5 million visitors over 2016.
Richard said Parks Canada is pleased that visitation is so strong and people from Canada and around the world are taking the opportunity to experience the outdoors and learn more about our history during the country’s 150th birthday.
“We encourage Canadians to continue to visit Parks Canada places until the end 2017 and beyond. Canada’s national parks and historic sites enable Canadians to experience their rich history and heritage in a special way and play a big part in the celebration of Canada 150.”