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Friday, February 22, 2013

Tourism rising in St. John's

 With a booming economy and tourism numbers rising, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has announced some major infrastructure projects. Nowhere is the growth more visible than in the capital, St. John’s, where hotel development is expected to expand with 700 new hotel rooms to be added.  In addition, a ten-year $167 million capital improvement program for the St. John’s International Airport is underway, and the St. John’s Convention Centre will double in size by 2016.
       Newfoundland and Labrador has seen steady increases in tourism throughout the province and St. John's is expected to continue this growth. A handsome city which has expanded from its colorful waterfront, St. John's is the oldest city in North America with Victorian architecture, heritage shops and a lively arts scene.  Visitors can meander down quaint side streets lined with brightly-colored 19thcentury row houses or take in the views from Signal Hill which rises up over the harbour and is crowned by the 1897 Cabot Tower, built for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee and commemorating the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's arrival in the new world. The city’s top cultural attraction, The Rooms, is a striking modern complex housing a museum, an art gallery with 7,000 works and historic archives.  Not far from downtown, visitors can see whales and icebergs drifting off the coast and thousands of seabirds nesting.
       Currently there are 1,955 rooms in 14 hotels in St. John’s and within the next few years, those numbers could rise by 35 percent.  These new projects – representing more than $100 million in eight hotels – are part of a larger building boom that will add $1 billion in construction to St. John’s infrastructure.  At 71 percent, hotels in St. John’s have the third highest occupancy in Canada.
       Following the lead of the Comfort Inn Airport which has already added 42 rooms for a total of 145, two new hotels will debut this year, a third in 2014 and plans call for several more.
Ø  Opening May 2013, the 148-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, on Kenmount Road about eight miles from downtown, is located on the site of the former Traveller’s Inn. The new five-story property will have an indoor pool and exercise room plus 4,000 square feet of meeting and conference space.   The property is close to the business district, the University, and Avalon Mall, the province's largest shopping mall.
Ø  A new five-story Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton will debut in the fourth quarter of 2013 at 411 Stavanger Drive near the Trans Canada Highway, just a few minutes from St. John’s International Airport. The 129-room property will have an energy-efficient design and 2,500 square feet of meeting space.
Ø  Ground was broken last month for the new Steel boutique hotel on Water Street in downtown St. John’s. Slated to open in the spring of 2014, the property will have 89 rooms.
Ø  Also in the planning stage is an extension of the Courtyard by Marriott at 133 Duckworth Street in the eastern part of downtown. The proposed five-story hotel will have 90 guest rooms.
       The increase in hotel accommodations is tied to passenger movements at the St. John's International Airport which have been increasing year over year for the last five years, a 22 percent increase from 2007.  To accommodate the estimated 1.9 million passenger movements forecast by 2020, a ten-year, $167 million capital improvement program to increase accessibility and expand airport facilities was announced in 2012.  Later this year, a $25.8 million Category III landing system will come on stream permitting more landings and take offs in foggy weather improving airport usability to 98.9 percent – equaling that of the top eight airports in Canada.  By 2020, the terminal will double in size, adding 184,000 square feet. More aircraft gates and parking (780 spaces) will be added as well as three new passenger loading bridges.
       The past several years has also seen a rise in trendy restaurants featuring “new” Newfoundland cuisine. Once known for its fish and chips and Jigg’s dinner (the local version of corned beef and cabbage), the food scene in St. John’s is being transformed by young chefs returning home. In 2007, Atlantica was voted Canada’s “Best New Restaurant” by enRoute Magazine with Chef Jeremy Charles and sommelier/partner Jeremy Bonia at the helm.  In 2011, their new venture, Raymonds was crowned “Canada’s best” by the same magazine.  Later this year, Todd Perrin, a Top Chef Canada competitor will open Mallard Cottage in an 1830s wooden house – one of the oldest remaining in Newfoundland.
       To meet the growing demand for the destination’s meetings and conventions business, the St. John's Convention Centre is expanding and will double in size to 100,000 square feet meetings.
      For further information, go to Newfoundland and Labrador or call 1-800-563-NFLD.