From January to December, visits to Nova Scotia increased two percent over the same period in 2011. This increase in visitation contrasts with the five year downward trend in visits to Nova Scotia. Since 2008, the number of overnight non-resident visitors to the province decreased four percent, which is equal to 86,500. Compared to 2011, visits from Atlantic Canada (+5%) and Ontario (+3%) increased while visitation from overseas and US markets declined by four and three percent respectively (or 2,800 and 5,600 visitors) in 2012. Road visitation was strong (+4%), while air visitation declined three percent compared to 2011.
Room-nights sold provincially decreased two percent compared to 2011, which is in keeping with the five year trend. Since 2008, the number of room-nights sold decreased six percent or about 159,000 room-nights. Activity in the accommodation sector declined throughout the regions, with the exception of Yarmouth and Acadian Shores. Aside from 2012, demand in Yarmouth and Acadian Shores has been in decline for the past several years.
Nova Scotia's performance in 2012 was in line with other Atlantic provinces. The number of room-nights sold in 2012 declined in all of the Maritime provinces.
Visitation was strong in the first quarter of 2012 due to improved weather conditions over the same period in 2011. Visits from Atlantic Canada (+12%), Ontario (+18%) and Quebec (+25%) increased in the first quarter. Another factor that influenced road visitation was the fact that the Digby ferry was in dry dock for several weeks in 2011. There were large decreases in room-nights sold in the Eastern and Northumberland Shore regions, due to extraordinary demand in 2011. In 2011 there was road construction and oil and gas projects that caused demand to soar. The Nova Scotia Museum experienced a drop in demand after the success of the 2011 Tyrannosaurus Rex exhibit, which broke museum attendance records.
In the second quarter of 2012 visits continued to increase above 2011 levels. Visits from Atlantic Canada (+7%) and Ontario (+6%) continued to increase. Activity in the accommodation sector continued to be mixed regionally, provincial room-nights sold decreased two percent from the same period in 2011. US remained strong while overseas visits continued to decline.
In the third quarter, the number of visitors decreased in July and September. Visits from Atlantic Canada (+5%) and Ontario (+3%) increased in the third quarter. There was a fire ban in place for most of July. July 2012 had four weekends compared to five in 2011, which may have impacted travel negatively. Visitation from overseas markets increased two percent while visits from US markets declined two per cent. In this quarter, road visitation was strong (+5%), while air visitation declined four percent compared to the same period in 2011. Accommodation activity decreased two percent in the first nine months of 2012. All of the tourism regions reported decreases in fixed-roof occupancy in September 2012.
Quebec visitation cooled after a spike in visitation over the last couple of years. In 2011, there were two national conferences in Halifax that contributed to domestic visitation: Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Dental Association. Visitation from Western Canadians also diminished, perhaps due, in part, to decreased direct air capacity. Increased air capacity from the United Kingdom helped visits from the UK market grow in August 2012. German visitation declined significantly despite increased air capacity.
In 2012, cruise passenger visits were up significantly in Cape Breton because all ships scheduled in August 2011 were cancelled due to storms. Cruise passenger visits were also up for the Port of Halifax, due in part to extra ships that came into the port in November.
Check-In Reservations declined in each month except November and December, for a year-to-date decrease of 19 percent. Visits to novascotia.com increased every month except October for a year-to-date increase of 13 percent. These numbers demonstrate the changing nature of how visitors are seeking information and planning their vacations.
See the 2012 Key Tourism Indicators for a complete list of tourism industry benchmarks for Nova Scotia.