P.E.I. Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay is urging Islanders to welcome tourists to the province as stories spread of unwelcoming behaviour by some.
Starting Friday, residents of Atlantic Canada can come to P.E.I. without having to self-isolate for two weeks, partially opening up the Island for tourism. Last year, Atlantic Canadians made up 60 per cent of the province's tourism market.
But just as hope of some kind of tourism season was raised, stories appeared in the national media about vehicles with out-of-province plates being vandalized. Two weeks ago a Salvation Army pastor with Nova Scotia plates on her vehicle had a nasty note placed on her windshield.
MacKay said tourism operators are telling him these stories, known as plate shaming, are leading to cancelled reservations.
"It's certainly alarming," he said. "It's our tourism product that has taken us a lifetime to build."
'These are our neighbours'
MacKay said he understands that some people are afraid, and fear affects everyone differently, but the Atlantic bubble is being opened up with the guidance of the Chief Public Health Office, and it is important to start to get the economy moving again.
"The public health office has done a tremendous job in guiding us through this pandemic, and we need to trust the science behind this. I just urge all Islanders to please support your tourism sector," said MacKay.
"These are our friends, these are our neighbours."
MacKay said whether the tourism sector opens or not there will certainly be more cases of COVID-19 on the Island.
But he added the health system is in a much better position to deal with an outbreak now than it was in March.
"We've got plans in place, we have science in place, to allow us to work through this," he said.
"It's crucial right now to get our economy start to open up a little bit."
MacKay said the cancellations he has heard about are devastating for the operators, who are trying to salvage what business they can out of the year.
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