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I recently had the pleasure of travelling to Newfoundland and Labrador for a conference and was moved by the strong sense of place I felt there.
A first-time visitor, I had heard the province boasted some of the friendliest people in Canada and was looking forward to meeting some of its tourism operators at the Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador conference and tradeshow. Newfoundlanders have also been touted as having a great sense of humour and, although my visit was short, if there is an islander without one, I’m convinced they aren’t in the hospitality business.
While generosity and accommodating attitudes often come to mind when the term Maritime hospitality comes up, those notions seem to apply to the way the province’s industry members treat each other as well.
“We all belong to one big team in the tourism industry in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said HNL chief executive officer Carol-Ann Gilliard in the opening session of the tradeshow and conference held in Gander, NL, in late February.
Rex Avery, incoming HNL chair and vice-president of Steele Hotels said it a number of times and a number of different ways over the course of the three-day event: if one succeeds, we all do.
Gilliard later told me that HNL is the provincial network of tourism operators who share the same values. “Our role really is to wrap our arms around that network of people and help them improve—become more viable and competitive,” she said.
The organization does that primarily through advocacy and skills training. But they don’t do it alone. HNL partners with destination management organizations that are on the ground in the province’s five regions and invites other organizations to the table.
The annual conference is an opportunity for all the stakeholders—the province, associations, tourism board, hoteliers, tour operators and restaurateurs—to come together and drive the direction of provincial hospitality.
The province has made great strides with an advertising campaign focusing on the natural beauty and unique culture in Newfoundland and Labrador.
With more than 10,000 people working in the tourism industry, Gilliard spoke of the responsibility to maintain the many natural beauties the province has been blessed with. “We are one of the ways to balance the resource equation,” she said.
Gilliard spoke of the inherent connection between tourism and a place’s culture, history and geography. “We turn it into a story,” she said.
Through telling these stories and promoting their province Newfoundlanders show their hospitality—which seems rooted in a natural pride in all the things that give the province a strong sense of place—every day.