Liling Bai fell in love with St. Peters Bay during a trip to Prince Edward Island in 2015, and three years later, she packed her bags, left her home country of China and started a new life on the Island.
This spring, she became a business owner, purchasing the St. Peters Bayview Suites, an inn she saw on her way to Greenwich in the P.E.I. National Park.
Bai says she had a lot of support from government and non-government organizations, as well as the community, to help her start her business in eastern P.E.I.
"I think the small community is very good for me because it's very quiet, peaceful, everybody is very nice and I get a very warm welcome here, so I don't think it's harder than living in Charlottetown," said Bai, standing in front of the two-storey inn with the bright red roof.
'Bringing a lot of economic activity'
Bai shared her story with 30 new immigrants to P.E.I. during an event Thursday designed to help them discover that area of eastern P.E.I.
P.E.I. Connectors is a program of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce that helps new residents learn about business and employment opportunities in rural P.E.I. and supports to help them establish a business outside of the Island's urban centres.
Nicole Bellefleur, the program's director, said there is an appetite among her clients to learn about business and employment opportunities beyond Charlottetown.
She said St. Peters Bay is a prime example of a community which is now home to a number of businesses purchased or started by new Islanders,
"They're creating succession opportunities for people who are looking to move on to new business opportunities or retire, they're starting new businesses, they're creating jobs, they're buying local supplies — so they are really bringing a lot of economic activity to small communities throughout P.E.I.," Bellefleur said.
'Feeling of acceptance'
Jim MacAulay, a longtime resident and educator from the area, said it's important rural communities grow their population and business base, and the P.E.I. Connectors program has helped St. Peters Bay do just that.
"I think what will make people move to St. Peters or any other rural community is the feeling of acceptance by the people that live in that particular community," he said. "That was the key here in St. Peters, that when people did come, and did meet with us … they felt welcomed, they felt wanted, they felt accepted."
P.E.I. Connectors used to run five to eight bus tours every year, bringing new Canadians to rural parts of the province. But COVID-19 put a stop to those tours.
Thursday was the first self-guided tour of businesses in rural P.E.I.
'Make people want to come again'
Bai said she expects to be in St. Peters for a long time.
She's planning a major renovation in the fall and is looking forward to a stronger summer in 2022, hopefully without pandemic restrictions.
"When I first saw the building, it's located in such a beautiful place. So I want to make a big difference for this building and also interior conditions," she said.
"I hope my guests, in the future, will like the space they stayed. I just want to upscale the current location to make people want to come again."
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