Part of a P.E.I. government program providing gift cards to help boost the tourism shoulder season starts today — but consumers will have to wait a few more weeks to get in on the action through direct purchasing.
The Canada Food Island Gift Card program offers a 40-per-cent discount on gift cards for tourism operations to use to create tourism packages.
"Accommodations are receiving their gift cards now and they've been selling packages. So someone that purchased a package will get a gift card starting this weekend," said Kent Thompson, director of finance and food tourism at Food Island Partnership.
Merchants and accommodation providers can register online through the Canada's Food Island website to participate in the program.
Thompson said there has been a lot of interest.
"We've got 35 accommodations now signed up,'' Thompson said. "We have 125 merchants that can accept the cards across the province.
Thompson said he has already heard from tourism providers who informed customers about the program and the person stayed an extra night or two to take advantage of the deal.
Delay for consumers
The program start date has been delayed for individual Islanders, though.
"For consumers, it will roll out starting the week of Sept. 28," Thompson said.
People will be able to pay $40 for a $50 gift card to spend at local accommodations, restaurants and businesses, he said. That's a 20-per-cent discount.
Cards will be available for purchase at all Murphy's Pharmacies and Mel's Gas stores, as well as Co-op stores in Tignish, O'Leary and Souris, Thompson said.
'Didn't get all the cards in time'
When the program was announced in August, it was in response for demands for a P.E.I. staycation incentive. The goal was to have it begin for both consumers and tourism operators today, Sept. 4.
"It was all supposed to be done at the same time… [but] as we work through the process in a COVID world, it takes a bit longer to get all the cards. So we just didn't get all the cards in time," Thompson said.
This is intended to be a two-year program. Thompson said this fall is more of a "pilot."
"We've structured it too so merchants can sign up. So, if they have closed for the season, they can sign up when they reopen, or through the winter as they get ready," he said.
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