Tourism industry leaders and the Nova Scotia government remain confident in the province’s tourism plan. “We have developed a solid business plan and marketing strategy in consultation with the tourism industry in Nova Scotia,” Rodney MacDonald, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage said today, Aug. 4. “It is customer-focused, research-based and built to work over time.” Despite a soft start to the tourism season this year, Mr. MacDonald said the province’s tourism efforts will continue to support products that customers want and will respond to. Like many other areas of Canada, Nova Scotia is facing a number of tourism challenges this year, including poor weather, high gas prices, and the fact that many Americans are still not travelling outside of the United States. Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are both reporting soft starts to the season. For Prince Edward Island, the first six months of this year were in line with last year’s difficult season. June and early July were a bit softer for New Brunswick. Nova Scotia had a strong tourism season in 2004, but experienced a five per cent drop in visitation from January through May this year. One of the factors was the cancellation of the Scotia Prince ferry service between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine. “We had some unique circumstances in the early part of the tourism season which we have been working with our industry partners to address,” said Mr. MacDonald. “In an effort to offset some of these challenges, we are taking steps to further strengthen our positioning in the market.” The province will roll out an enhanced mid-summer marketing campaign this month in Atlantic Canada, a market which represents more than half of all visitors to Nova Scotia, and launch an expanded late-summer campaign for the northeastern United States earlier than planned. “In Nova Scotia, the ability of industry and government to work together and respond quickly to factors impacting tourism is a valuable strength for the business of tourism,” said Nicolas Carson, general manager of the Prince George Hotel and chair of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia, the provincial voice for the tourism industry. Charles Clerk, president of the Island Beach Company and chair of the Tourism Partnership Council, the industry-government partnership that plans Nova Scotia’s tourism marketing, research and product development, agrees. “Our relationship with government enables us to identify and provide timely input in response to visitation statistics,” said Mr. Clerk. “By working together, we have been able to further strengthen our tourism marketing efforts.” In addition to enhancing marketing efforts, Mr. MacDonald and two other cabinet ministers led a business and industry delegation to Portland, Maine, last week to promote the restoration of the ferry service to Yarmouth. Mr. MacDonald and senior department officials will also meet with the new president and chief executive officer of the Halifax International Airport Authority to discuss remaining runway construction work and ensure contingency plans are in place. “We are committed to working with our partners to continue attracting more visitors to the province and make sure their experience in Nova Scotia is the best it can possibly be,” said Mr. MacDonald. Tourism is a major economic engine in Nova Scotia, worth close to $1.3 billion in annual revenues and more than 33,000 direct and indirect jobs. This year’s $7.7-million tourism marketing campaign is the most extensive developed by Nova Scotia’s tourism industry.