The Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. is happy to see the provincial government's new program to support accommodations businesses, but said it's not enough to keep tourism operators afloat this summer.
The program, meant to support those businesses during another summer of travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will provide a $100 Canada's Food Island gift card for each two-night stay at a qualifying accommodation.
"The beauty of that program is that it will entice people to book rooms and come and stay and Islanders, maybe, to stay in a lot of our accommodations across the Island," said Corryn Clemence, the CEO of TIAPEI.
"The accommodation sector specifically has been devastated throughout this pandemic. And this is a program that will help, definitely, but it won't be the solution."
For a better tourist season on P.E.I., Clemence said the borders would have to be reopened to tourists sooner.
P.E.I.'s reopening plan has tourists from outside the Atlantic region allowed to visit in September without isolating if they are fully vaccinated, after the peak tourism season. That's unless the Island's vaccine rollout speeds up considerably.
"It's really difficult for an industry that welcomed almost 1.6 million visitors in 2019 to be really pulled back to the Atlantic bubble," said Clemence, referring to summer 2020.
"We still have challenges, you know. The magic fix for that is to get the borders opened."
The president of the Hotel Association of P.E.I. said the program will help its members by getting "heads in beds."
"It's a great opportunity to come to a hotel and be able to have your little extras paid for, be it the Confederation Centre Theatre, or restaurants or the water parks," said John Cudmore, who also manages the Holman Grand Hotel in downtown Charlottetown.
"We're giving the [gift] cards out on arrival, we're encouraging our guests to get out and spread around P.E.I."
Supporting multiple businesses
The program will offer a maximum of five gift cards for a 10-night stay.
P.E.I. Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay said by offering the gift cards, the province can support other Prince Edward Island businesses with the same program.
"With these gift cards, this is going to help the retail sector out," he said.
"We have numerous restaurants signed up. There is attractions on there as well, golf courses, deep-sea fishing."
Nearly 300 businesses have signed up to allow customers to use the gift cards, he said.
The staycation incentive program runs from June 15 to July 31. The gift cards themselves have no expiry date.
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