Should I Stay or Should I Go to Lunenburg? A Lunenburg County Summer 2023 Tourism Briefing



(Photo: Issie Patterson)

Though Lunenburg County’s beaches and towns were quite crowded this summer, there was a noticeable decline in visitors compared to summer 2022.

Out on the majestic, rugged coastline of Blue Rocks, Karl Marsters runs Pleasant Paddling. The company offers both kayak rentals and tours. 

Marsters says the summer of 2022 brought a huge influx of visitors, since it was the first summer after the pandemic when things truly felt “normal” again. “People were frantic to go and do things,” he explains. 

This summer, Marsters says though the season was great, the numbers have leveled out since 2022. “Weather played a huge role,” he says.

The nasty weather didn’t only affect aquatic adventurers; tourism operators in towns felt the effect of bad weather on business as well. 

John VanderBrugge is the owner of Trot in Time Carriage Tours in Lunenburg. He theorizes inflation and interest rates could perhaps be to blame for fewer travelers, and last summer was likely busier due to tourists being eager to travel after feeling pent-up during lockdowns. 

“We also lost more days to weather this season which drops revenue,” he says.

VanderBrugge and Marsters’ comments about tourism numbers falling compared to last summer are confirmed by Ruth Wawin’s statistics. Wawin is the Tourism and Event Development Officer for the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg.

“Through conversations I had with tourism operators in June we heard revenues were down from the same month the year prior,” she says. 

Wawin believes, based on conversations with tourism operators, that the decline in visitors could partially be caused by the wildfires and heavy rainfall this summer.

The province’s tourism statistics show there is indeed a dip in visitors compared to 2022. The number of visitors coming to Nova Scotia in July 2023 went down 4% from 2022, according to Tourism Nova Scotia’s website. Though 4% may not seem like a hard hit to our robust tourism industry, that accounts for 13,000 fewer visitors.

Tourism Nova Scotia also publishes info on how many nights were purchased at South Shore accommodations this July compared to July 2022: “28,000 room nights sold, down 8% or 2,400 fewer room nights sold.”

The stats don’t point to doom and gloom for tourism in Lunenburg County, though. Wawin points out that in terms of nights sold at South Shore accommodations, our numbers are higher in July 2023 than they were in July 2019, pre-pandemic. 

The numbers were so high last summer in the post-pandemic travel craze that the 2023 numbers seem muted by comparison. But rest assured that South Shore tourism is ever growing.

“Overall, we know that tourism has not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, however, we have seen some growth on the South Shore,” Wawin says.

Our region remains a popular destination for fellow Nova Scotians–Wawin says the majority of visitors in June were in-province travelers. It’s no surprise the region is also still very popular with American tourists; many among us likely noticed the vast array of US license plates in beach and town parking lots this summer. 

Most American visitors hailed from New England states such as mainly Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts, but some traveled from far-flung states like California and Missouri. Wawin also points out there were many visitors from France, Germany, and Italy. If you have a keen ear for language, you were sure to hear snatches of Italian, French, and German in popular tourism spots in our region this summer.

With the weather cooling considerably this month, it’s a much less common sight to see a tourist wandering the streets in a rain jacket, sporting a fancy-looking camera. The crowds have thinned and only the locals (and the sparse off-season visitors) remain.

Marsters has packed away his kayaks for the winter, and Ernie, Jack, Jake and Bernie – the charming Trot in Time horses–will soon be trotting their last tour of the 2023 season. Tourism operators across Lunenburg County will (hopefully) enjoy some much-needed rest before the tourists of summer 2024 arrive.


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