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Province commits $500K to help NB outfitters hurt by COVID restrictions

Outfitters to receive 20 per cent rebate on packages they sell

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Fishing on the Cains River in "Miramichi country". Nathan Wilbur/ASF

The Government of New Brunswick has introduced a program to help hunting and fish outfitters, which have been left suffering financially from COVID-19-related restrictions.

On Friday, the province announced it was spending up to $500,000 on the NB Fish and Hunt Promotion.

The program will let participating outfitters receive a 20 per cent rebate on all hunting and fishing packages they sell to New Brunswick residents, “allowing them to offset their prices,” said a news release.

“We have been working closely with the tourism industry to establish this program for outfitters because we know how hard they have been hit during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tourism, Heritage and Culture Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace, in the release.

“This incentive will bring much-needed support to outfitters and will encourage more New Brunswickers to enjoy our province this spring and summer.”

All experiences must take place between April 15 and July 15, and include at least two nights of accommodations, the release said.

Program welcomed, but won’t benefit all, says association

The program was welcome news for Dale Clark, president of the New Brunswick Professional Outfitters and Guides Association.

He said since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the industry has suffered due to border restrictions that have prevented foreign clients from coming to New Brunswick to hunt and fish.

“I have had zero income for over a year-and-a-half and I’m the same as probably 90 per cent of the outfitters in the province,” said Clark, who also works as an outfitter near Woodstock.

“So anything we can get, we got both arms [outstretched] and both hands ready to grab it.”

He said the hope is that outfitters can use the rebate to work out better rates for locals, in order to encourage them to purchase fishing and hunting packages.

And with the province’s plan to reintroduce the Explore NB Travel Incentive program, Clark said he hopes New Brunswickers are even more incented to take trips with outfitting companies.

At the same time, Clark said he has doubts about the program’s benefit for certain outfitters.

For those like himself, who offer bear hunting packages, he said business might still be slow, as there’s no existing market of locals turning to outfitters to hunt bears.

“They’re not going to pay to go to an outfit or for a guy to hunt when they can do basically the same thing for nothing in their own dooryard,” he said.

And for a portion of his members who only offer packages such as guided canoe tours, they’ve been left out, he said.

“It [a canoe trip] doesn’t quite qualify because it doesn’t pertain to hunting or fishing,” he said.