Friday, August 29, 2008

Another blow for tourism in Western Newfoundland

For those from the UK the main alternative to the Gatwick-Deer Lake charter flights has always been to Zoom Airlines flights into Halifax from Gatwick, Manchester & Glasgow.
Unfortunately the airline suspended all operations last night (28th Aug 08), grounding all planes and laying off 600 staff. The announcement was forced when one of its creditors detained a plane from taking off, forcing the passengers off the plane!

This is bad news for everyone directly involved - but also it's extremely bad news for tourism on the Canadian Atlantic coast including Western Newfoundland. With the number of international airline routes in the area shrinking, I wonder what the ongoing future impacts are on the local economies? And jobs?

Some seem to think that the only tourists on Western Newfoundland are uber rich Humber Valley Resort chalet owners. They forget that actually the resort itself attracts (non owner) holidaymakers, who return home and promote the area to others ... and as local infrastructure and tourism developments, more and more businesses and resulting jobs will be created - and they in turn will have knock on effect to other business and jobs etc.

Tourism is an industry that Newfoundland is just really finding out about. The value of tourism is yet to be fully understood. The next big challenge is the issue of accessibility - and flights!

Local business group Humber Direct-Air (HDA) is working to try to secure a UK-Deer Lake route. More on HDA soon.

Links: Halifax Airport International routes - Zoom Airlines announcement - BBC on Zoom - Blog: Timing is Critical - Blog: Humber Direct-Air - Zoom video

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Friday, August 22, 2008

UK-Deer Lake flights - HUMBER DIRECT-AIR

There is growing activity in Western Newfoundland regarding the need to ensure continuation of direct flights to Deer Lake from the UK (as well new ones from other international hotspots). A group of concerned business people have been meeting in Corner Brook over the last six months, and has now formally launched as "Humber Direct-Air". Those interested has now expanded to a wider circle of business stakeholders, noteable tourism managers, and key politicians.

This is a very positive move, and should be supported wherever possible. I for one look forward to telling you more about their progress. The Humber Direct-Air full press release is below.

Read my previous "Timing is critical" blog ...
Western Star report on Humber Direct-Air
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Full Press Release:
Since it’s inception, the Humber Valley Resort has contributed economically to this area in many positive ways. Retailers, tourism operators, restaurateurs, those involved in the building trade, property developers, just to name a few, have seen significant increases in business due to the influx of people from overseas. The spin-off has seen new developments, additional tourism infrastructure, and many new jobs associated with all of this. The direct and/or indirect economic impact, should it be measured, would amount to millions of additional dollars injected into the local economy.

Humber Valley Resort’s success in bringing a direct air connection from the UK to Deer Lake has been an integral part of the overall impact. Western Newfoundland was now just 4-5 hours from one of the largest economies of the world, and the Humber Valley, with all its amenities, became competitive with other world-class destinations. Without this 4-5 hour direct flight, the commute time was considerable longer, thereby reducing our demand as a destination significantly.

As a result of this, a number of business stakeholders have been meeting for the past 10 months to ensure the continuation of the direct flight from the United Kingdom to Deer Lake. To date, the Resort has been subsidizing the cost of this flight, and the stakeholders needed to prepare itself for the eventuality of it been discontinued. The group, informally named “Humber Direct-Air” has been meeting with officials from the Humber Valley Resort, other stakeholder groups and representatives from various federal and provincial government departments to work together to maintain this vital link. The group’s mandate is very specific and very clear, that due to the major economic impact the cancellation of the flight will have on the Humber Valley, that stakeholders will work together with the Resort and others to continue with the direct-air flight.

The next meeting is scheduled for 7:00PM Wednesday (27th Aug 08) evening at the Glynmill Inn, and any person who feels they may be affected by the discontinuation of this flight is welcome to attend.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Tourism changes - Timing is critical?

It has been well documented that Newfound NV the owners of Humber Valley Resort (HVR) has changed its strategy and now intends to focus on building high end chalets, and in doing so is ceasing all vacation related functions including the seasonal charter flights (London-Deer Lake) that Newfound NV funded, at a loss. [read more]

As much as individual personal impacts - for example the local people who have lost their jobs - there is serious impact on local tourism. HVR & Newfound NV have invested heavily in developing Western Newfoundland tourism as a destination to the UK market. The work to develop new travel agency relationships takes 18-24 months due to the timescales to print the catalogues etc. All that work and those relationships were about to come together for Winter 2009 and Summer 2010.

But what now?

The province’s Tourism minister Clyde Jackman says western Newfoundland is a unique tourism product, but there are no imminent plans to increase efforts to market the area more than it already is. He added; the west coast is still a major tourism destination and that should not be lost in this disruption. “This part of the province is unique and has attractions that are different from other parts of the province. It is a strong destination within the province and we see it as something that can be built upon and that’s what we have to continue to do.” [read more]

But timing is critical. With so many new travel agencies preparing to market HVR & Western Newfoundland to their clients, the changes, (in particular the issue of air access and the European flights) will have massive medium term impact. Summer 2009 brochures promoting the area have assumed flights are available - the companies will withdraw the holidays if they can't guarantee their clients getting to the location - let alone having a great time!

And they won't wait to Easter 2009 to withdraw them. If you were a travel agent in the UK - why would you sell a winter 2009 holiday to HVR - with all this disruption, closed restaurants etc - when you can sell a well known resort elsewhere? And why would you even stock a summer 2009 brochure when you're not even sure what flights (if any) will be available? You simply wouldn't.

Add to this situation the fact that many HVR chalet owners have already been forced to re-consider whether to visit this year due to the unknown status of Revenue Canada's change in HST for resort chalets. (Some chalet owners have already received unexpected $70,000 HST bills!!). So expect a quiet Winter 2009.

Clearly there are a lot of changes happening. Change is often for the good, and there are likely to be opportunities. However it's all in the timing. Western Newfoundland tourism needs clear and decisive provisional support, and it needs it quickly and well communicated.

Waiting to "see how things transpire" is not what the area needs to hear.

Timing is critical is the time!

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Canada's Top 100 golf courses

ScoreGolf's biennial rankings of Canada's top 100 golf courses came out today. Humber Valley Resort's River Course got a good ranking of 25th ...

Mysterious disease killing Newfie moose!

A mysterious disease that has killed a number of moose on Newfoundland's northern peninsula has left provincial wildlife experts in that province scratching their heads. It's unclear how many moose have been lost due to the illness that causes the animals to literally waste away, become walking skeletons and then die ... read more at and
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Keep up-to-date with NF website news - with our new service

Take this link and subscribe to the new auto-updates service. Subscribe to "We are" by email. You will then receive a summary of the day's updates in a consolidated email.

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More changes at HVR

More changes at Humber Valley Resort this week ...

The River Course is without doubt an award winning beautiful course.

To make the golf course a more accessible benefit of staying at the resort (or being an owner), the course is now only playable by guests, owners and annual season ticket holders.

As the latest casualty of the changes being made by the new CEO Jayne McGiven, late this week Mike Clewer (MD of the resort) lost his job. The new corporate strategy includes a major change in direction, and a new CEO was always likely to bring in their own key people. We will have to wait to see which is the reason for this particular change.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Humber Valley - B&B For Sale

Well known to all that have visited Humber Valley ... Maybe of interest: The "Adams House" Bed and Breakfast (5 star B&B in & little Rapids) is for sale. Four guest bedrooms and an owners appartment in a 1/2 acre plot.

Check it out on
Remax $499k

Newfoundland: adventure in the great outdoors

Newfoundland offers all the challenges for adventure lovers – and loads of fun, says Charles Starmer-Smith.

By Charles Starmer-Smith Last Updated: 3:47PM BST 07 Aug 2008

"Time to pucker up, m’by,” said the Humber Valley fisherman in his yellow sou’wester as he shoved an ugly old trout towards me. As he was also brandishing an oar, I had little option but to brace myself for the wettest lips in town. I had heard much about the famous Newfoundland welcome, but this was not what I had envisaged when I popped into Sully’s pub for a quiet beer. Then again, when the locals have 50 different words for “snow”, live in towns with names such as Dildo, Blow Me Down and Pothead, and have their own time zone half an hour ahead of the Canadian mainland, perhaps I should not have been surprised.

The fish-kissing, along with eating unleavened bread and drinking Screech (the local rum), was part of a traditional ceremony to make me an honorary “Newfie”. But the gimmicky ritual was unnecessary, for in a week on this island off Canada’s east coast I had already seen enough to feel a strong affinity with the former British colony.

Telegraph Travel readers who enjoy the Tolkien-esque landscapes of New Zealand will love Newfoundland. In just seven days I had come face to face with towering icebergs, witnessed whales frolicking in sheltered bays, fished in salmon-filled rivers, cruised on placid lakes, hiked through volcanic hills and abseiled down sparkling waterfalls. And thanks to new direct flights from Gatwick with Monarch, all this lies less than five hours away.

Despite Newfoundland’s proximity to the British Isles and the close links between them — still heard in the difficult-to-understand Irish-cum-West Country-cum-Canuck accents — this land has barely registered on the consciousness of British and Irish holidaymakers. Some will have had their view of Newfoundland shaped by E Annie Proulx’s novel The Shipping News (subsequently filmed with Kevin Spacey and Judi Dench ) — a haunting portrayal of incest, abuse and life in a bleak, wind-swept landscape. Proulx claimed to have “liked this harsh, bony, bare, empty, cruel and beautiful place so much I could not bear it.” But many locals could not bear her novel: it may have put Newfoundland on the map, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

As I arrived in the verdant Humber Valley , I too found the desolate picture she painted hard to reconcile with what I saw. The sun was burning away the wispy layer of mist over Deer Lake, revealing pine-clad hills and pastel-shaded chalets that descended down to the water’s edge, while behind an emerald-green championship golf course snaked through the forests.

The Humber Valley Resort is the brainchild of Brian Dobbin, a Canadian businessman, and the island’s first major step into the luxury tourism market. Hot tubs, spa treatments, manicured fairways and fine dining have entered the Newfoundland holiday lexicon for the first time; while the 250 chalets, measuring up to 7,000sq ft, are huge even by Canadian standards.

Alongside the pampering, there are plenty of adventures on offer: caving, rafting, fishing, quad-biking, mountain-biking and more (in winter quad bikes and hiking boots are swapped for snowmobiles and skis as the slopes of Marble Mountain and the vast backcountry around Deer Lake become a snowy playground). It all sounded great — but I wished I had read up about canyoning before signing up. After a couple of hours of negotiating rapids, rock climbs and jumps, I found myself teetering at the top of a raging 60-foot waterfall, the current threatening to sweep me over the precipice. My guide gave the thumbs-up and I leaned back on the rope, my legs shaking as I searched for safe footholds, the water hammering around my waist. Inch by inch I lowered myself down. Terra firma never felt so good.

Seeking respite the next day from the adrenaline adventures, I waded deep into the Humber River to cast my line in search of the elusive Atlantic salmon , before testing my swing on the impressive River Course, created by the renowned Canadian golf designer Doug Carrick. I was joined by Mike Clewer, the resort director, who came here from London a few years ago — a move he describes as both a challenge and the best choice he has ever made. Just then, a black fox scuttled out from the bushes on the sixth hole, picked up the boss’s ball from the edge of the green and deposited it by the flag for an easy birdie. Clearly the locals were already attuned to their director’s wishes.

It was not easy to leave the creature comforts of the Humber Valley Resort, but the wilds and wonders of the west coast beckoned. It is 21 years since Gros Morne National Park earned Unesco World Heritage status, and since then it has developed a network of trails, activity centres and information points inviting visitors to hike through The Lord of the Rings-like landscapes, camp by the sea or kayak beneath the towering cliffs of fjords. The accommodation in these fishing communities is basic but surprisingly comfortable — Red Mantle Lodge, with its breathtaking views, and the Swiss-owned Neddies Harbour Inn, with its fine dining, were my favourites.

But first you have to survive the drive. The journey from Humber takes you deep into moose country. In the 130 years since a pair of these giant deer was introduced to the island, their numbers have swollen to 130,000. The park is said to have the highest concentration of moose on earth; judging by the number I spotted lolloping near the roadside, and the signs warning drivers to be wary of these “Newfoundland Speedbumps”, I can well believe it.

Once in the park, I set off on the trail of whales: on an evening boat trip around Norris Point. As we left the mooring I wondered if I had misunderstood the shock jock in charge of the microphone, as he screeched (with plenty of Screech inside him): “If you want to get naked. Get naked!” Judging by the nervous looks on the faces of the septuagenarian cruisers around me, it seemed I had heard right. But thankfully the cagoules and cardigans stayed on, despite the free-flowing alcohol and a band below deck belting out George Jones’s If Drinking Don’t Kill Me. Instead there was a more inviting spectacle on offer, as minke whales, back from winter in the Caribbean, surfaced time and again in front of the prow.

Early the next morning I headed to the Tablelands. When I arrived, the giant slabs of red peridotite rock — forced up from the earth’s mantle as a result of tectonic collisions — rose above the dawn mist like a set of giant mahogany tables. Cape Town’s own Table Mountain, by comparison, seemed like a flat-packed Ikea version. But the park’s showpiece is Western Brook Pond, a 19-mile freshwater fjord reminiscent of New Zealand’s Milford Sound. Our boat chugged along the foot of 2,000-foot volcanic cliffs, past giant waterfalls cascading down to the glassy surface of the lake, as condors and bald eagles swooped high above. Few returned with camera memory cards less than full.

Back in the car, I rejoined the coastal road, heading towards the Great Northern Peninsula . The land flattened out. Forests of twisted spruce and balsam fir appeared to have been given the hairdryer treatment, the trees almost horizontal from the winds. Yet as I thundered through these bleak, plains, I passed small communities that seemed to have sprung from nowhere, of houses whose front doors were decorated with huge antlers, isolated fishing huts with smoke billowing from the chimney and lone cyclists straining at their pedals. In this harsh landscape it is no wonder that humour and hospitality are such important facets of life.

As I approached the tip of the northern peninsula, I stopped at L’Anse Aux Meadows , site of the first European settlement in the New World. Leif Ericson and his band of Norsemen arrived here from Greenland in around 1000AD, and established a base on this sliver of land in order to explore farther south. Today the site includes a reconstruction of the traditional sod huts, complete with a few locals dressed in character. But the harsh realities of this landscape proved too much even for hardened Norsemen, who remained here for barely 20 years.

In fact northern Newfoundland is littered with ghost towns, including the former fishing community of Quirpon Island . As an old sea dog ferried me over from the mainland in an even older wooden boat, the powerful North Atlantic surf did its best to slam us against the craggy rocks. The first sight of the Cape Bauld lighthouse and its guesthouse, perched high on the windswept cliffs, underlined the hardiness of generations of lighthouse keepers. I was thankful for a few rays of sun as I joined Ed English, who now runs the place, on a kayak expedition. The waters are a prime viewing spot for whales — orca, minke and beluga — and are known as Iceberg Alley, for good reason: giant boulders of ice, carried from Greenland by the Labrador current, pepper the skyline.

You have no real concept of their size and beauty until you get up close. As we rounded the corner of a bay, there it was: iceberg, dead ahead. Bobbing and swaying gently on the swell, we paddled gingerly until a wall of ice, shaped like the hull of a cruise ship, towered above us. Blue transluscent streaks ran like arteries through the layers of hard-packed ice; overcome by an urge to touch it, I paddled ever closer — until Ed warned me that the icebergs have a tendency to flip or even explode.

Back at the guesthouse I found the other guests sitting on the wooden helicopter platform that juts out over the ocean. Silhouettes of these glacial fragments speckled the horizon; orca whales and seals breached and frolicked in the swell as a blood-red sun set over the Labrador Sea.

As it grew dark, music drifted out from inside. In a region where electricity and television arrived late, Newfies have always made their own entertainment. We packed in for a “kitchen party”: out came the guitar, and Ed’s family and friends took turns to sing haunting tales of life at sea, followed by rollicking country numbers. The guitar was soon passed on, and guests invited to perform songs from their homeland. With scarlet cheeks, I managed just a few verses of a U2 cover — which would have had Bono thinking malo — before passing the guitar back, cursing my English reserve.

After saying our goodbyes the next morning, we headed back to the main island with the same craggy-faced mariner. As I left the dock and wandered back to my hire car, an old man emerged from his ramshackle fishing cottage to greet me. Leaning against his postbox, Bill Bartlett told me he belonged to the fifth generation of Bartletts to have been involved with the lighthouse, his family had guided mariners into the harbour for 200 years. I told him that half my family were also called Bartlett — no lighthouse keepers among them, unfortunately, as they come from a small village in Somerset. He blinked a few times — and said, with a chuckle, that his relatives hailed from the same area.

Could it be that in the farthest-flung corner of Newfoundland I had family? I am checking it out with the genealogists...

Source: By Charles Starmer-Smith