By Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The resumption of ferry service to and from St-Pierre-Miquelon next month will mean more than a handful of Newfoundlanders wandering their streets again, picking up French pastries.
It will be a huge boost for businesses on the Burin Peninsula as well.
“It’s not just good news, it’s great news,” Marystown Deputy Mayor Gary Myles said Tuesday.
“Anything that increases the businesses in our town is good news right now. It’s just one more sign that we’re coming out of this pandemic.”
The adjusted border measures for travellers from St-Pierre and the United States come into effect on Aug. 9. Fully vaccinated travellers from other countries will be allowed into Canada as of Sept. 7, assuming the epidemiology remains favourable.
All travellers will still require a pre-entry COVID-19 molecular test result.
Ferry service to the French islands shut down last year because there wasn’t enough business to keep it afloat.
That will change when the border reopens to two-way travel.
`Stretch their legs’
“For the residents of St-Pierre-Miquelon, after so long, to be able to leave the island and travel … it’s a great opportunity for them now to come to Newfoundland and Labrador and spend some time here,” Chris Sheppard, executive director of Legendary Coasts of Eastern Newfoundland, told The Telegram Tuesday. “Many residents of St-Pierre-Miquelon have family here, so they’ll finally be able to see their family they haven’t seen. And just to be able to get out and stretch their legs in a bigger place is great for them.”
While it will be a big tourism reboot for the French archipelago about 25 kilometres off Fortune, Sheppard expects visits to Newfoundland will also shoot up once the ferry starts running again.
“This year, I think you’re going to see the majority of people over there are going to want to come to Newfoundland and Labrador, for sure,” he said.
According to his estimates, even if half of the islands’ 6,000 residents visited for an average of two weeks, it would pump about $4.5 million into the local economy.
“For Newfoundland and Labrador, I think it’s a huge opportunity for our tourism industry when you’re going to see the 6,000 people of St-Pierre-Miquelon possibly travelling over here, spending time, spending money, exploring all of Newfoundland, especially now with the ferry being able to take cars,” he said. “They’ll be able to come over here and drive, go further, spend more. It’s an absolute huge opportunity for the province.”
Sheppard said businesses in and around Marystown will see huge benefits from the reopening.
He said WalMart alone can expect a 30 to 40 per cent bump in business.
A manager at the story confirmed Tuesday that will mean more hours for employees.
“We’re definitely going to hire more people if we get the St-Pierre crowd back,” she said.
A staff member with the Marystown Hotel and Convention Centre said they’re also expecting a hike in bookings.
Sheppard said the upturn will be substantial.
“We estimate, from our conversations with operators of businesses in the Burin region, there’ll be anywhere from 100 to 120 jobs created by the ferry opening,” he said.
Premier Andrew Furey, who had been lobbying for the move as recently as July 15 in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, welcomed the news Tuesday.
“Our government has advocated for the reopening to St-Pierre-et-Miquelon given the close ties between us,” Furey stated in a news release. “It is a time for optimism as we emerge from COVID-19, thanks to the commitment of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to get vaccinated and follow public health advice.
His office also released the July 15 letter.
“The province’s chief medical officer of health has consulted with the Public Health Agency of Canada and it is the province’s view that the people of St-Pierre-et-Miquelon represent a very low-risk population group,” Furey wrote, “given the high vaccination level of eligible residents (over 75 per cent with two doses), favourable epidemiology and the existence of border measures within St-Pierre-et-Miquelon to monitor the arrival of air travellers from beyond the archipelago.”
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