N.B. summer travel incentive program deadline approaches

Eligibility for New Brunswick's summer travel incentive program will end Oct. 31, although the provincial government says it has already issued over $1 million in rebates this year.

The Department of Tourism, Parks and Heritage says 21,855 rebate applications have been received as of last week. While all travel must be carried out before the end of October, people have until Nov. 30 to file a rebate application with the province.

The provincial government says travel expenses within New Brunswick could qualify for a 20 per cent rebate of up to $1,000 for an overnight stay between May 27 and Oct. 31. The province is considering rebates in the categories of accommodations, transportation, activities, and food.

The travel incentive program began last year as a pandemic lifeline to a beleaguered tourism industry.

Initially, only New Brunswick residents were eligible for the program, but it expanded this year to include residents of all four Atlantic provinces. The program's budget also increased year-to-year, from $3 million to 4.5 million.

A total of 25,258 rebate applications were received during last summer's program, with 1,217 for the fall and winter. With additional border restrictions being lifted, the program's future is uncertain.

"I actually think we should continue providing this incentive especially for the fall and winter months," says Carol Alderdice, president of the New Brunswick Tourism Industry Association. "It does a couple things. It gets people within New Brunswick visiting the province. That was a big plus last year. But it also provides them a bit of an incentive to stay in the province or bring in people from the Atlantic provinces."

Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Parks Tammy Scott-Wallace says the program's success will be considered going forward.

"I could see where a program like this could continue to be used in the future," she says. "Maybe it would be a better program than this. I can't commit for sure that this is the answer outside of the pandemic.

Scott-Wallace says reported delays in refunds being issued from last year's program have been addressed, adding that approved rebates should be received by residents in a matter of weeks.