For tourism industry, P.E.I.'s opening plan still about survival

·3 min read
Liling Bai of Vision International Travel has trailers rented at Marco Polo Land for June 26 to people from out of province. (Liling Bai/ Vision International Travel - image credit)
Liling Bai of Vision International Travel has trailers rented at Marco Polo Land for June 26 to people from out of province. (Liling Bai/ Vision International Travel - image credit)

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King is scheduled to present a plan on Thursday for reopening the province's borders, and the tourism industry will be watching closely.

Operators are hopeful that, despite there being far more COVID-19 case numbers in Atlantic Canada now than there were a year ago, vaccination campaigns will knock the pandemic back, and the province's reopening plan will reflect that hope.

Even with the Atlantic bubble open last summer, tourism operators found themselves with a fraction of the customers they have grown accustomed to in recent years. Visitor numbers were down by two thirds.

An earlier opening would allow people more time to plan their travel, says Corryn Clemence.
An earlier opening would allow people more time to plan their travel, says Corryn Clemence.(Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

"If the bubble is open then maybe we can survive by ourselves," said Liling Bai, co-owner of Vision International Travel.

"If the bubble is closed I think there is no way."

Bai operates a number tourism businesses, including St. Peters Bayview Suites, trailer rentals at Marco Polo Campground, and she rented out advertising space at Charlottetown Airport.

Revenue from the airport entirely disappeared. Overall revenue was down about 80 per cent.

Matthew Jelley hopes more people will be allowed to gather outside at his amusement parks this year.
Matthew Jelley hopes more people will be allowed to gather outside at his amusement parks this year.(Tom Steepe/CBC)

Corryn Clemence, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I., doesn't believe the industry is facing the bubble not opening at all, and would really like to see it earlier than the July 3 date of last year.

"There was a bit of a lag in travel, by two or three weeks, so we really didn't see a lot of Atlantic Canadians moving until late July into August," said Clemence.

"For us to be able to have that announcement, this is the plan, we're opening, we'll say mid-June, that gives us a couple of weeks prior to Canada Day to really start to see that traffic flow."

TIAPEI is also looking for information on what public health restrictions will be in place on the Island: will larger events be allowed and will there be different rules for people who are vaccinated.

'I’d like to see the discussion shift to what normal looks like,' says Matthew Jelley.
'I’d like to see the discussion shift to what normal looks like,' says Matthew Jelley.(Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

That is particularly important for Matthew Jelley, president of Maritime Fun Group, which operates amusement parks. Last year he was operating at 15 to 20 per cent capacity. This year, with new research on the safety of being outside, he hopes those limits can be increased.

He is also looking for the discussion turning toward the end of the pandemic.

"Last year the discussion was about a new normal, and I'd like to see the discussion shift to what normal looks like," said Jelley.

"If that is towards next summer then so be it, but I would like to see the direction of the discussion start to change."

Bai's focus is more short term. She has reservations for people in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick starting June 26. She hopes she won't have to provide refunds for those.

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