Original Published on Aug 17, 2022 at 07:28
By Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Provincial tourism operations are on track to surpass the record-setting performance of 2019.
Night stays at Kings County provincial campsites were up by 18.44 per cent compared to 2019 and Parks West experienced a five per cent increase in night stays June through July.
While patrons on beaches supervised by provincial lifeguards have not officially been tallied for June and July, a spokesperson for the department said, “The word among lifeguards is that things have been a lot busier than the past few years.”
Golfers have played 13,903 more rounds of golf on the Island’s three provincial greens Brudenell, Dundarave and Crowbush than in June and July 2019.
Kevin MacLean is site manager of Orwell Corner Historic site.
He says the number of people visiting the site is way up from 2020 and 2021 and he suspects the site will at least have a normal season compared to 2019.
“We’ve got everyone dressed in period costumes, a blacksmith, baby goats, calves, chickens. That’s the kind of thing that really draws in families.”
Provincial operations aren’t the only businesses that have welcomed more traffic.
Barry Galloway, the new executive director of the Belfast Community Development Corporation which owns and operates Belfast Highland Greens and Lord Selkirk Campground, said this has been the best season ever.
“For the most part, our sites are fully booked. Before Covid, we would see that on the weekends but this year we are regularly at full capacity through the week,” he said. There has hardly been a tee time that has gone uncalled for through the month of July and into August.
The corporation hired more staff to accommodate the demand, but overall this wasn’t a huge issue and the business is good for both sites as well as the corporation overall.
Nadine Jennings, manager of Eastern Express Food Truck and Greco in Souris, says business has been up at both locations.
She points to the influx of tourists enjoying events like the Souris Sea Glass festival.
“Weddings are happening now too,” she said noting over the past two years many were canceled and weddings that did to go ahead were typically small. “They seem to be getting bigger again this year.”
Some businesses haven’t quite hit 2019 numbers.
Matthew Doiron of East Coast Paddle Adventures has rented kayaks, paddle boards and bicycles out at the Souris Beach Gateway Park since 2016. He says his business is doing way better than through the pandemic but it hasn’t yet rebounded to 2019 levels.
Marcia Carroll with Island East Tourism Group says some local private businesses noticed a plateau in activity in July due to Covid and a fire on the MV Holiday Island, which took the vessel out of commission.
“When Covid numbers were rising in July it impacted staffing for some and it might have played into a bit of a plateau for some businesses,” she said.
According to Ms Carroll, the visitor information centre in St Peters has been seeing peak days (where more than 200 visitors stop in) more frequently this July than in 2019.
Island East Tourism Group opened a pilot visitor information centre in Montague in 2019, which has also been seeing a lot more traffic this year than ever before.
“Bus tours are back this year,” she said, “That’s helping.”
The bulk of tourists pouring into the Montague centre tend to be over 40 years old and either single or coupled travellers opposed to families.
The tourism group opened the Montague information centre, with some support from the province, to focus on sharing information particularly tailored to people looking for a vacation or experience in Southern Kings.
Ms Carroll said tourists stopping at the Wood Islands visitor centre often arrive off the ferry looking to go anywhere from Tignish to Cavendish, Charlottetown or Souris. People stopping at the St Peters information centre are generally looking for things to do north eastward to Greenwich, Souris and so on.
“People who are looking for information in Montague, they want to know what they can do locally in Montague, Georgetown, Belfast, Murray River, Murray Harbour. The girls in Montague know this stuff inside and out,” she said. “This location really helps promote local business by sharing what the area has to offer.”
Ms Carroll said Island Tourism East plans to work with the province to develop the Montague location into a full service destination centre funded and recognized by the province equal to the Wood Island centre as an example.
This item reprinted with permission from The Eastern Graphic, Montague, Prince Edward Island