Many curious visitors come to Newfoundland, bringing interesting stories with them. But not all of them want to be called “tourists,” saying it has a negative ring to it.

This week, Massachusetts native Tod (George) Slone could be found at the Downhome Shoppe and Gallery. The freelance writer had just finished interviewing the staff.

Slone — known by his pen name George Slone in Canada — is a regular visitor to the province.

“I love it here,” Slone said, “For the past five years, I have come up here and I am always looking for new spots to visit.”

Slone has explored most of the island and has written several articles about the province.

“I am (a tourist) whether or not I consider myself to be one,” Slone added. “It seems to have a slightly negative connotation, to be a tourist. … I guess I’m a tourist, but I don’t really think of myself that way. I am a traveller.”

On Signal Hill at the Interpretation Centre’s Newfoundland Chocolate Company Café, several tourists are taking a break after having roamed the historical site or before making the final climb. One of them is Don Orth, who loves Newfoundland’s beauty and history.

“Sometimes I don’t like being called a tourist,” Orth said. “It sounds kind of negative to me.”

Orth is from Ottawa. He came to the province because he had heard a lot about St. John’s and its interesting history. He wanted to see the houses, the harbour and the natural environment.

“I think there’s a difference between a tourist and a visitor,” Orth said. “Sometimes, a tourist is just someone who comes down and sees the sights really quickly, reads the tourist magazines, and goes (away).”

Orth said he doesn’t like to go on tours, and would rather go to little villages and talk to the people he meets there.

But not all visitors say the term tourist is negative.

Ilona Bortoli, 20, is from Geneva, Switzerland, and she considers being a tourist a good thing.

She said the world is so big, and people should travel to see different places and perspectives if they can.

“In 2010, I went to Canada with my family,” Bortoli said when asked why she came to Newfoundland. “We were in Quebec, and during the flight, I saw an island and I asked my mother, ‘What is this?’ and she said, ‘That is Newfoundland.’ I said, ‘I have to go there one day.’ And now I am 20, and I have come here because it was a dream.”

Liz Hickford is a young mother travelling with her family. They live in London, U.K., and came to Newfoundland in search of whales, puffins and icebergs.

To her, tourism is not a negative word because people must travel to see different places and in doing so, tourists help local economies and provide a source of income to the people who work there.

According to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation, the latest numbers — from 2017 — show that “tourism activity in the province is estimated to have generated $413.5 million in direct gross domestic product (GDP), representing 1.5 per cent of total provincial GDP.”

The department also said, via an emailed statement, “the province received a record-breaking 553,000 non-resident visitors in 2017, a growth of three per cent compared to 2016, and an eight per cent increase compared to 2015.”

According to a 2016 exit survey, done by the department based on interviews with tourists leaving the province, 34 per cent of tourists visited Newfoundland and Labrador for vacation, another 33 per cent came to visit friends and relatives, 26 per cent visited for business reasons and three per cent came to attend conferences. The remaining three per cent said they came for other reasons.

“For many visitors, trips to Newfoundland and Labrador are fuelled by a curiosity to find out more about our province,” the department said, adding tourists come to see landscapes, icebergs, whales, puffins, other wildlife and specific areas or sites.

But whether you call them tourists or visitors, one thing is clear — businesses in St. John’s are happy to welcome them with open arms.

  1. are a world-class destination, so that is exciting when you meet someone who has travelled the world and this is a place they really, really want to come to,” said Darlene Payne, sales associate for The Bee’s Knees and The Travel Bug.

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