Questions unanswered about the future of N.B. visitor information centres

The question mark signs leading to New Brunswick’s remaining provincial visitor information centres have never been more appropriate, since there’s no clear answer about whether those locations will re-open this season.

The three provincially operated tourist bureaus in St. Stephen, Saint-Jacques, and Campbellton have already been closed throughout the pandemic. Initially, the provincial government said the closures were temporary and due to pandemic travel restrictions.

Visitor information centres typically open in mid-May, and there’s anticipation tourism numbers will increase with several travel restrictions now lifted.

However, the provincial government has given no confirmation on the future of its tourist bureaus operating in the weeks to come.

“The Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture will be meeting over the next couple of days with representatives from the three communities where provincial visitor information centres are located,” said Jason Humphrey of the province’s Executive Council Office, in a written statement Tuesday.

“At those meetings we will outline what the plan is for 2022. We will have more to share once we’ve had those conversations.”

St. Stephen mayor Allan MacEachern said the province’s statement is leaving more than a little doubt.

“That tells you they’ve already made their decision most likely,” said MacEachern.

Up until a few years ago there were seven provincially operated visitor information centres at seven major points of entry into New Brunswick.

Green Party MLA Kevin Arseneau said decisions about provincial visitor information centres in recent years have been disappointing and “a missed opportunity,” for a province fighting a “drive-through,” reputation.

“We’re a very welcoming province and that’s definitely not what we’re giving off,” said Arseneau.

Minister of Tourism, Heritage, and Culture, Tammy Scott Wallace was not made available for an interview.

The municipally-operated visitor information centre in St. Andrews continued to operate throughout the pandemic.

“We saw greater numbers than pre-pandemic so our visitor information centre was extremely vital to the success of that,” said St. Andrews mayor Brad Henderson.

“People are still looking for that personal connection. But they’re also using it as an opportunity when accommodation reservations are full and they’re trying to find another place to stay. It’s another resource for people, to give them some inside information on other options they may not be finding online.”

Both St. Stephen and St. Andrews plan to continue offering local tourist information at respective municipal locations this summer.

The province has given no exact timeline on when it will release details about the future of its remaining provincial visitor information centres.