The Canadian province that is geographically closest to the British Isles is looking forward to the resumption of a direct flight from London Gatwick.
Newfoundland and Labrador is just five hours’ flying time from the UK and will again be on the radar of tourists when Westjet begins a three-times-a week service on May 1.
A delegation of tourism and trade partners from the province fronted by its premier was in London last week to promote the route and extol the benefits of the destination.
Talking exclusively to Selling Travel in Canada House in London, Steve Croker (pictured right), Minister, Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation for Newfoundland and Labrador said the flight was a “game changer” for the Canadian Atlantic province.
“It is always more difficult when you start off a conversation by telling people they will have to fly west, to Toronto or Montreal, and then back east again to get to us. That is an undeniable barrier,” he said.
“But Canada is a lot closer than most people think; about the same flying time as Turkey. Newfoundland is a mid-haul destination.
“What we have (in Newfoundland and Labrador) really appeals to a large segment of the UK market. Our target audience is someone who travels for a long period of time and enjoys the outdoors, hiking, birdlife and wildlife. We have a lot of interesting things to offer.”
The province’s Premier Andrew Furey (pictured centre) pointed out that British ties with Newfoundland were first established during the reign of Queen Elizabeth almost 500 years ago.
“Newfoundland was Britain’s first British colony in North America and only stopped being a British colony as recently as 1949…. I always say we were the original tourism destination for British travellers,” he joked.
“Our capital St John’s is the oldest city in North America. We still regularly fly the Union Jack and the next time you walk past Buckingham Palace look out for the Newfoundland Gate.
“We are your closest neighbour and have plenty to offer, whether hiking trails, icebergs, whales, and incredible backdrops and vistas that can’t be matched by any other Canadian province,” the Premier added.
In fact Newfoundland and Labrador can point to 29,000km of coastline, dotted with beaches and 300 hiking and walking trails. Its second highest peak, Gros Morne, offers some of the best views but there are plenty of other easy-walking trails, such as the Skerwink Trail, a 5.5km coastal hike along cliff tops and beaches.
Andy Gibbons (pictured left), Vice President of External Affairs for Westjet, admitted that the airline’s history of flights to Canada’s east coast had been a stop-start affair but reassured potential partners that the service would have longevity this time.
“It is true to say that as an airline we have had our ups and downs, in terms of our investment in Newfoundland, but this time it is different because we have a very strong business plan that is focused and consistent. In short it is a product that both sides of our ocean can rely on. When you are selling Newfoundland & Labrador, you can do it with confidence.
“We want to be Canada’s national leisure airline…. actually, I take that back: we are already Canada’s national leisure airline,” he said.
The route will serviced by a Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft, leaving Gatwick on a Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, departing at 11.00 and arriving at 13.15, will operate the London Gatwick-St. John’s route.
The service is scheduled to run until October 25 2024.