Newfoundland’s economy is heavily dependent on natural resources, typically cod fishing being the most prominent income generator. However, Newfoundland’s history has had the misfortune of experiencing lingering economic hardships because of its declining fish stocks. (Cadigan, 2009). This alone is not sufficient to provide jobs or income to help alleviate widespread poverty and the high rate of unemployment that Newfoundland is currently experiencing. Of all the Canadian provinces, Newfoundland ranks among the highest in the unemployment rate. Dependent on financial assistance from the federal government for the well being of its population, Newfoundland is contingent upon its only other industry to boost its frail economy: tourism. Its hidden gem is a well documented phenomenon that occurs mainly during the months of April, May and early June where along the coastline of Newfoundland, icebergs can be seen floating freely on the Atlantic Ocean. (Hempstead, 2012). Tour boat operators, anxiously awaiting this season, provide first hand viewings of floating icebergs to tourists from all over Canada and the United States of America. Most plentiful in April and May, the city of Twillingate, Newfoundland has been aptly named the “Iceberg Capital of the World”. (Hempstead, 2012). Income earnings from this particular attraction for the province of Newfoundland, was over $288 million in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). (Adkin, 2009). In fact tourism contributed more to the economy than did fishing and logging, which is the primary source of income for the province. Newfoundland’s Department of Finance has estimated that approximately 10,760 people benefitted from the iceberg phenomenon, finding employment within the tourism industry. (Adkin, 2009). Clearly, icebergs play an integral role on the economy of the provincial tourism market.
Tourist’s behaviour can have both a favourable and detrimental effect on the quality of life on Newfoundland’s communities. Through recognition and participation in traditional customs and ongoing festivals, tourism encourages and promotes a civic pride and helps preserve community’s personal cultures. Geared to promoting a better cultural understanding, Newfoundlanders welcome tourists and include them in their everyday activities. Iceberg Alley is the major tourist attraction for the province of Newfoundland in which tourists not only participate in boat tours on the Atlantic Ocean, but also experience local cuisine and hospitality that ranks among the best in Canada. It was a mastermind Newfoundlander who took to the icy waters of the Atlantic to capture chunks of icebergs known as “growlers”. (Cadigan, 2009). Creating the “Iceberg Vodka”, Newfoundland is proud to produce and licence this authentic drink direct from its own province. Popular amongst all tourists, Iceberg Vodka has created a buzz that attracts both drinkers and non drinkers alike.
At the same time, tourism can also be a detriment to the quality of life in Newfoundland. Overcrowding during the summer months can be marked by an increased number of tourists all seeking to partake in iceberg sightseeing tours and local entertainment. Hotels and restaurants, although benefiting immensely from the income generated from tourists, often put increased demands on staff resulting in overworked and disgruntled employees seeking monetary compensation above and beyond the flat rate. This type of rapidly changing social environment that exposes its population to external influences can have irreversible effects on the otherwise quiet, local communities of Newfoundland simply because most of Newfoundland is a rural–based society that has incorporated a traditional lifestyle with that of a fast paced modern day one.
Environmental consequences occur anytime an action is overlooked. Nature and ecotourism are closely related with the environmental landscape of Newfoundland in that they not only promote and inform the visiting tourist of Newfoundland’s natural heritage, but they help generate funding that will improve and enhance the already existing attractions. The annual trek of the floating icebergs from Greenland, descending down the Atlantic Ocean, is as natural an occurrence as the naked eye can appreciate. As impressive as they are however, icebergs have been found to cause extensive damage to local service ships and shipping vessels out on the Atlantic Ocean. With almost 90% of an iceberg hidden under water, the risk of a shipping vessel colliding with it is high. The growth of plankton, corals and other invertebrates that are found on ocean floor and serve as the basic level of the food chain are disturbed when melting icebergs invade their ecosystem. (Prevost, 2003). The ocean in itself can have an environmental impact on the icebergs wherein the spring and summer seasons are shortened, resulting in a longer winter period, colder temperatures, ocean currents and increased winds. (Prevost, 2003). These environmental impacts can alter the social landscape of Newfoundland, affecting the viability of local boat tour operators and the tourism industry. Weather is a major factor for Newfoundland and its tourism agencies as it is very unpredictable and can deter the amount of tourists visiting.
Challenges and Limitations
Historically, Newfoundland has been depicted as an account of adaptation to the challenges and opportunities presented by its unique geographical features. With its thousands of kilometers of coast lines, most of Newfoundland has been built along its coasts. Homes, businesses, roads and bridges, may all be affected due to the erosive deterioration of the coast. Newfoundland is notorious for its building of homes along its sloped landscape. This type of construction is at the mercy of the shifting and eroding landscape that can cause severe destruction. Homes would be subjected to landslides, rock fall and rotational slumps.
With sea levels rising and increased storm activity; the icebergs are melting and significantly impacting coastline communities. With climate change concern on the rise and its effects on Greenland’s ice caps, the floating icebergs which collectively form Newfoundland’s “Iceberg Alley”, are in imminent danger of melting. These floating phenomena are at risk of disturbing the natural habitat of the Atlantic Ocean’s marine life. These challenges could have catastrophic repercussions on Newfoundland’s tourism industry, affecting everything from the service industry to the livelihood of Newfoundlanders in that fishing might be compromised due to the upheaval of the aquatic ecosystems.
It is without a doubt that Newfoundland has a lot to offer to the tourism sector by way of water and land. For tourists also keen on viewing icebergs in their natural settings, visits during the early spring and summer months can be an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, Newfoundland is a slave to its unpredictable weather patterns and climate conditions which affect everything from day-to-day living, fishing, iceberg viewing, whale and bird watching and without a doubt; the service industry, which is mostly dependent on the income of tourism dollars. The future of Newfoundland as it pertains to tourism is most certainly a question on everyone’s mind as it plays an integral role not only in promoting Canada as a popular tourism destination, but also because Newfoundland has natural and unique rock and coastal formations that attract tourists from all over North America. The effects of climate change, evidenced by the melting of the floating icebergs, will have irreversible consequences not only to the marine life but also to the small fishing communities that dot Newfoundland’s coasts. Good planning for the future growth of Newfoundland’s economy will ensure that its natural and cultural heritage will be preserved thus ensuring this province’s uniqueness as a travel destination.
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