From women in army trucks to those who 'see' bears, tourism groups welcomes all

     The Southern Avalon Tourism Association celebrated a milestone this past summer when its 175,000th visitor walked through the doors of its visitor centre next to Foodland in Bay Bulls.
SATA has operated the centre for over 11 years. “We worked out a deal with Sobey’s that basically we put lots of people on their parking lot here at Foodland and they help us to stay here,” said treasurer Bill Luby. “It’s also good for the whole community.”
     Luby said staff at the centre inform tourists about any services they might need while travelling the Irish Loop, including food and accommodation businesses, tour companies, heritage and ecological sites, and the east Coast Trail.
     “This is what we’re here for,” said Luby. “It’s non-profit, membership driven and we heavily promote our members.”
     The centre employs four to six students a year at the centre. “And this year I went directly to the College of the North Atlantic and told them I had a management position here as coordinator of the information centre and they gave me their top student, Eric Trudel,” Luby noted. “ I was really happy because he was in the Tourism Management Program and he hit the ground running. It worked out really well.”
     Trudel helped the centre provide travelers with an Irish Loop visitor’s app for their phones, updated SATA’s website and got the association on Twitter.  
     Luby said the Bay Bulls centre may the only one in the world that can boast it has helped visitors from every continent. “I’m saying that because last year six scientists from Antarctica came here, the forgotten continent,” he said. “They went out on a couple of whale tours because they wanted to see how the whales behave up here.”
     On the day of this interview, the centre had seen visitors from Chile and Poland, as well as many British who had arrived in St. John’s aboard a luxury liner. A couple of weeks earlier, a woman from Austria arrived driving a 1977 Mercedes Benz army truck refurbished into a camper. She had had the truck shipped to Vancouver, drove it across Canada and ended her stay by visiting Ferryland before returning to St. John’s and having the vehicle shipped back to Austria.
     Many tourists check in at the centre on their way back too. “Most have had a very happy experience,” Luby said. “But just a few weeks ago two women came back and they were ticked off. They said, ‘You said there were no bears on the East Coast Trail… We saw one outside Witless Bay on the trail and we took a picture of it before we ran away.’ They stuck this smartphone in my face and I said, ‘Mam, that’s a Newfoundland dog. That’s not a bear. It might lick you to death.’”
     Luby said people visit the Irish Loop for all sorts of reasons, including the whale and puffin tours, the Colony of Avalon archaeological site and the fossils at the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve. “There are quite a number of people who search for their Irish roots,” he added. “They come here looking to find perhaps which cemetery may contain a certain family name… And we put about 100,000 people each season on the east Coast Trail alone… And they get hungry and they want to go kayaking… there’s lots to see and do.”

Posted on September 28, 2015 .