Events, pent-up demand pushing hotel bookings past pre-COVID levels

In a week, one of New Brunswick’s biggest music festivals will be coming to Saint John.

The Area 506 festival makes its long-awaited debut at the Area 506 Waterfront Container Village, which opened in June.

“I think we’re all very, very excited, you know, it’s been a long time coming. It’s been three years since we last hosted our own Area 506 festival as we originally conceived it” , said Ray Gracewood, the founder of Area 506.

“I think, combined with the opening of the waterfront container village last month and how exciting and well received it has been, it feels like an incredible extension of what we’ve been doing since early June. “

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Typically, Gracewood said, the last week before the festival is the busiest time for ticket sales. However, sales have already reached never-before-seen levels for this multi-day event.

It’s just the latest spirited event to take place in the Saint John area after hosting the 2022 Memorial Cup and welcoming the return of cruise ships.

Rising foot traffic is at the center of the explosion in hotel bookings, which is reaching levels not expected for many years.

“We’re exceeding 2019 and pre-pandemic occupancy levels, and we projected that wouldn’t happen until 2024,” said Paulette Hicks, CEO of Envision Saint John: Regional Growth Agency.

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According to Smith Travel Research, the occupancy rate in Saint John in June was 71.3%, an increase of 160.2% over the previous year.

“From a visitation standpoint, we’ve seen a significant increase with major events, sports tourism and returning visitors to the area, and we’ve certainly seen that again in May and June,” Hicks added.

Success in the hospitality industry has not been isolated to Saint John, with communities across the Maritimes reporting that visitors have returned in droves.

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In Halifax, the combination of the lifting of restrictions and the peak tourist season has helped operators begin to recoup the more than $260 million in lost revenue.

Ross Jefferson, president and CEO of Discover Halifax, said bookings are now exceeding pre-COVID levels, with visits last month “15% higher” than any other year – a record for the region. .

“Traditionally we would be around 85-90% occupancy, we are in the 90% occupancy, and depending on the day of the week we go over that. There is still availability for those who are interested in coming, but it’s tight — especially for some of these weekends when the big events are happening,” Jefferson said.

Gracewood said they’re excited to be able to play a role in navigating a post-pandemic resurgence “with a bit of bluster,” saying the region is ready for it.

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— With file by Eilish Bonang

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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