Fall tourism strong on P.E.I. despite COVID-19 challenges

·2 min read
Harnys and Christine Chartier decided on a cycling tour of the Maritimes this fall rather than a vacation in Western Canada. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
Harnys and Christine Chartier decided on a cycling tour of the Maritimes this fall rather than a vacation in Western Canada. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

Those working in tourism say this fall is going better than expected on Prince Edward Island, but there are still challenges.

The biggest challenge is the ongoing labour shortage, says the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.

"It's causing a lot of our operators to maybe reduce hours, close on certain days, because they can't deliver the type of service that our visitors have come to expect," said TIAPEI CEO Corryn Clemence.

She said cottage operators are seeing strong bookings into the fall, and motorcoach traffic is beginning to return.

"It's good this fall, but we're really looking forward to next year, when it will be back to the capacity that we used to enjoy."

People want to be able to go out and celebrate. — Tracey Singleton

The association said P.E.I.'s COVID-19 border controls requiring visitors be double vaccinated or face self-isolation seem to be helping tourism, because visitors feel safer once they are here.

That was the case for a Montreal couple who was celebrating their retirement with a trip to the Maritimes. The Chartiers had been planning to go to Western Canada but changed their minds, saying it feels safer in this region.

"We've been biking the last few days and going to the beach and enjoying the beautiful weather," said Christine Chartier.

"Almost no traffic, I like that. With an RV it's easier to drive around," said Harnys Chartier.

The couple was surprised to find some businesses closed.

'Demand was really high'

Some large recent events did have to be cancelled, including the P.E.I. Shellfish Festival and the Harvest Home Festival in Rollo Bay. However, the annual Fall Flavours Festival on P.E.I. is still going ahead, and ticket sales have been strong.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

"When we launched tickets the demand was really high," said event manager Tracey Singleton. "Coming into September, we were almost sold out of every event which is exceptional, typically that doesn't happen.

"People want to be able to go out and celebrate."

The bus tour business isn't celebrating yet. Although buses are back on the roads, passenger numbers are down dramatically.

"The biggest difference is just the volume of people, we're probably at 15 or 20 per cent of our regular group tour business," said Matthew Cassidy, the president of Coach Atlantic, part of Maritime Bus.

Instead of 40 or 50 people on each bus, Cassidy said there are 12 to 20. He said right now, the company wants to show bus tours are going, and being planned for next year.

TIAPEI says although pandemic times are difficult, it is happy with fall visitor numbers, and says plans are underway to create events to bring in more winter tourists too.

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