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