The Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick (TIANB) is the premier organization for the assistance and benefit of both tourism and hospitality in its eponymous home province. The association is now celebrating its 40th anniversary, having gotten its start in September 1983 under its original name, Hospitality New Brunswick Inc. Before that, only a couple of local hoteliers and restaurateurs were registered on the patent, but the association was eventually incorporated under its current name in 1991, both to bring it up to speed with more modern organizations and to operate under a broader umbrella.
Chief Executive Officer Andrew McNair began his tenure with the association in 2022, and he says that its current mission is to provide the advocacy and support that its members, and the tourism industry at large, need.
One of the biggest pieces of TIANB’s work is advocacy, especially in tackling issues facing tourism operators and assisting in finding resources to solve these issues. This is done to help move things along for operators in the province and both identify and solve problems so that members are minimally affected.
Training is another key part of the association’s operations, as it offers a breadth of modules and certification programs for local workers and managers to elevate their skills and ensure that there are good employees and trained workers in the industry. These include modules like customer service training and responsible beverage programs for bars and restaurants, with many more programs available relevant to all sectors.
“We want to be a stakeholder in the quality of the New Brunswick tourism product,” McNair says. He also wants to elevate the industry as an attractive career option for both new and returning staff to the industry, so that a healthy pipeline of capable workers can be established and continue to prosper to benefit the sector.
Emerging from a turbulent start to the decade, McNair says that a lot of struggles persist for the tourism industry as it attempts to shake off the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a lot of help still needed from operators. However, he says that tourism in New Brunswick is in a good place, with demand having returned in large measure. Earlier in 2023, signs seemed to point to a positive summer season, but speaking at the end of August, the scene seems to have levelled out. Operators report that it may not be as flush a season as originally anticipated, with the unseasonably rainy weather in the Maritimes being a likely leading factor.
“We continue to be optimistic,” McNair says, as tourism numbers reach close to the pre-pandemic standard and more people look to get back outside and explore what the province and its neighbouring Atlantic provinces have to offer.
He says that tourism is one of the many industries currently affected by labour shortage, especially in the more rural areas of New Brunswick, but operators are finding creative ways to address this. Approaches include finding technologies to create efficiencies that will allow operators to do more with fewer people, or minimizing hours to accommodate more workers.
The options available are not necessarily the most desirable, but everyone involved is making the best of it. Regardless, a lot of work is being done within the tourism sector to increase, improve, and identify opportunities for product in the province.
A few sectors and initiatives within provincial tourism have seen growth within the past year or so. McNair cites Outdoor Adventure, an all-encompassing promotion of outdoor activity and recreation in New Brunswick, as one that has been successful thus far and is still growing. This is attributed largely to people coming to the province and looking for things to do in nature. Operators are taking advantage of every opportunity available to capitalize on this interest with geo-domes, bike travel, trails, campgrounds, and even hunting and fishing, as people are very interested in the outdoor experiences the province can offer.
This outdoor focus also dovetails nicely with buy-local initiatives in New Brunswick, which are providing a boost in business for food and beverage companies. McNair says that craft spirits is one example of a part of this sector that is thriving, with new vendors appearing every few months. “Creative initiatives are thriving and taking advantage of what the consumer is looking for today,” he says, and are proving to be a growing ally for local tourism as time goes on.
The Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick regularly leverages its partnerships with other organizations to boost the services it provides. Frequent partners include provincial and national tourism industry associations of Canada, and New Brunswick works closely with all of them and supports their respective initiatives. The organizations also share ideas and best practices with one another.
McNair says the government of New Brunswick provides valuable education and labour resources, citing how the association regularly works with the early education and childhood development branch of the province to get tourism on the radar of schools, to encourage students to consider it as a future career opportunity.
Other associations, like Tourism HR Canada and Restaurants Canada, provide training and education, with the latter part of a reciprocal deal where members in New Brunswick can take advantage of services on offer. He also says that the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is a strong partner and a huge supporter of the tourism industry, helping operators and providing sponsorships and loans where possible.
“We try to keep our networks as open as we can,” says McNair. “A lot of the issues in our industry are not limited to just us, so we do our best to offer support to partners in return.”
Going forward into a new year, he says that the association wants to focus on what the tourism industry needs; as someone who is relatively new to the scene, his focus is on listening and learning, and identifying where support and growth lies in the province. “If we aren’t listening and figuring out where the gaps and opportunities are, we aren’t much good as an organization.”
While tourism in the province is still strong, the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick aims to anticipate its members’ needs to facilitate growth and future strength. It will continue to do what it does best while adding even more services, providing new training opportunities and staying abreast of current tourism issues to ensure its strength as an advocate. Above all, the association will look to build a bigger and better organization into 2024 and beyond, and McNair and his team are looking forward to another 40 years of TIANB being the go-to place for New Brunswick-based businesses and tourism operations to flourish.