Gros Morne region gets $330K in funding for tourism boost

·3 min read

The federal and provincial governments partnered to distribute a chunk of money to promote tourism on the west coast on Friday.

The $330,000 will go to the Gros Morne Co-operating Association — a non-profit volunteer organization that works with Gros Morne National Park to support protection, preservation and interpretation of the park's heritage.

The cash influx will be used to boost tourism for when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, and tourists are free to travel to and from the province once again. The funding will also be used to develop a regional plan for the seven communities within the region including Rocky Harbour, Norris Point, St. Paul's, Cow Head, Trout River, Woody Point and Glenburnie-Birchy Head-Shoal Brook.

"It will allow community leaders to engage with professionals in the industry to help develop initiatives that will address the gaps in the local tourism industry," said Premier Andrew Furey, who is the MHA for the district, on Friday in a virtual funding announcement.

While business operators welcome the money, they still have to prepare for another potentially tough tourism season next year.

Furey said it's still unknown when things will return to normal as the pandemic continues to drag on, but the money announced on Friday will help prepare the industry ahead of time for when that happens.

Lindsay Bird/CBC
Lindsay Bird/CBC

Shirley Montague, who represented the Gros Morne Co-operating Association during Friday's funding announcement, said the funding is needed as planning for 2021 festivals and events is ongoing — whether they will be held virtually or in person.

She said groups, organizations and operators need to know what funding is available to them after a year that saw many in the industry suffer across the province.

"People were either closed or operating at 10-15 per cent capacity. So where is next year going to go? Some may not open," Montague said.

"It's a very difficult question for [us] right now. We have to move forward however we can, develop some kind of vision, some kind of path, and come up with where it is we can go logistically."

MP Gudie Hutchings, who represents the Long Range Mountains in the House of Commons, said the tourism industry can't sit back and wait, and planning ahead of time will leave business owners and operators ready in anticipation for a large influx of tourists when the time is right.

"This area will be ready to rock and roll, whether it be local tourists, Atlantic Canada, Canada and the world," she said.

"They will be ready with planning, new products, upgraded products, a whole new way of marketing, visioning. It's going to be a phenomenal thing for the area."

In total, the government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency's business development program, is kicking in $247,500, non-repayable, toward the project. Parks Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) are contributing $10,000 each. The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is contributing $82,500.

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