Brigus tourism operators say return of international visitors would be a boon

By Patrick Newhook/February 17, 2022

Tourism operators in one of the most popular towns for visitors is hoping this will be the come back summer for their industry after two years of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Robert King, owner of The Riseover, an old English style pub and restaurant located in Brigus, said he has a two-fold plan to take advantage of the province’s promotion of Come Home Year this summer. King, whose family’s roots in Brigus go back a number of generations, only opened the business this past September. To date, most of the trade has been from locals.

“So far, 80 per cent of our business in the first three months, beginning in the fall, has been that demographic,” King said. “That’s where we get our business from. Once we get into the spring, I would say we’re still going to get lots of local support like we’ve had. I’m thinking it’s going to be more of a 60 – 40 split; 60 percent being local because we’ve had really good support and I don’t think they’re going to stop, and probably get more of a 40 percent from the main areas of St. John’s and, of course, tourists.”

King said the success of the Come Home Year will hinge on how the pandemic is doing by the summer, cautioning that the unpredictability will impact the event.

“If the pandemic stays where it’s to now, I don’t know if it will be much of a Come Home Year,” he said. “It’s all going to come down to how the pandemic plays out. It’s hard to say. God love the premier for trying to put together something in the province, but again it’s an unknown.”

King said the two years of promotion for so-called staycations brought a lot of business to Brigus.

“I would say without the Come Home Year, we’re going to triple our sales compared to the first three months when we started,” King wagered. “If everything is back to somewhat normality or the new normal, I believe the Come Home Year will bring in lots of people that are originally from Newfoundland who want to come home but haven’t in the last two years. I’m saying triple without the Come Home Year. I can probably say five to six times the business we’re doing right now this quarter (with the Come Home Year).”

Another popular tourism business in Brigus is the Sea Cliff House on the Pond, operated by Werner Koehler and his wife Sharon. Koehler describes the business as an antique and collectable shop.

Originally located in Bay Roberts, the couple moved the business to Brigus to tap into the tourism potential there. They plan to open in May for the first time in the new location.

Koehler is a firm supporter of the Come Home Year idea, believing it’s a good way to reinvigorate business. He said the government should open the province this summer to travelers.

“I think it’s a great idea. The last one they had, of course, was after the Trans-Canada Highway opened (in 1966) and that was a great reason to have it,” Koelher said. “And now we’ve got kind of another major situation happening where, hopefully, this year Newfoundland will open again.”

Koehler said while their local clientele has been growing every year, national and international tourists are an important part of the business. Without those travelers, many businesses, not just his, will miss out, he said.

“A lot of Americans would come up, who don’t come up anymore, and they tended to bring a lot of money with them and they’d spend the money,” said Koehler. “There’s an increase in the (local) Newfoundland business, which is great, but it doesn’t quite (match). I’m still losing out on that international business.”

Koehler said it’s important for local businesses to cross promote each other to make the area a bigger draw for visitors.

“The more people who can come (the better),” he said. “I mean, it’s going to generate higher (sales) numbers.”

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