Government is changing how some park and tourism services are being delivered. The changes, which are part of program review, will cut costs and duplication, and protect services most important for government to fund.
Seven of 20 provincial parks are changing to self service.
Two provincial visitor information centres will not reopen this season. One is within three kilometres and the other is within 15 kilometres of locally run centres.
“As a government, we spent the past year looking closely at programs and services to ensure we’re getting the best value for Nova Scotians’ money,” said Natural Resources Minister Zach Churchill. “Self service is a more efficient way to keep our parks open for campers to enjoy. The switch will reduce the cost of our park system by $600,000.”
Parks switching to self service are:
— Laurie and Porters Lake provincial parks, Halifax Regional Municipality
— Islands Provincial Park, Shelburne County
— Smileys Provincial Park, Windsor
— Boylston Provincial Park, Guysborough County
— Salsman Provincial Park, Country Harbour
— Whycocomagh Provincial Park, Whycocomagh
It costs three times more to run these parks than what they bring in as revenue.
Most campers will not notice a difference, beyond paying at pay stations instead of paying park staff. Self-service campgrounds are becoming more common in other provinces.
Visitor information centres in Pictou and Digby will not reopen this season.
The locations represent just six per cent of all visitors to the provincial centres, but 17 per cent of overall costs. Per visitor, the costs are between four and seven times higher in Pictou and Digby than per visitor costs at the Halifax airport information centre.
These changes will save $450,000 annually by 2016. Added to the park changes, taxpayers will save more than $1 million each year.
Patrick Sullivan, CEO of the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency, said services must change, based on the needs of today’s visitors.
“People visiting information centres have dropped by about 40 per cent over the last decade, as more people go online to plan their trips,” said Mr. Sullivan.
The tourism agency was also created to work with private operators to significantly increase tourism, a oneNS goal.
“The agency must focus on its primary responsibility — attracting more first-time visitors to Nova Scotia,” said Mr. Sullivan. “Tourism operators and communities are best positioned to provide visitors with services once we help get them here.”
The changes affect 58 seasonal staff, 38 from the parks and 20 from the visitor information centres.
Employees affected by this decision will be treated in accordance with their rights as outlined in the collective agreement.