Tourism looks promising for summer season – In this recessionary year not everything is doom and gloom for Islanders

The Guardian – Prince Edward Island’s provincial newspaper. 07/03/09
Editorial

Tourism operators, along with industry and government officials, are all brimming with optimism as they look forward to the coming 2009 tourist year on P.E.I. That outlook seems well placed despite the current economic situation facing the province. Last season was disappointing, but could have been worse. Despite the high dollar, high price of gas, and record rainfall in August, the overall decline was in the single digits. Now the price of gas has dropped significantly, the dollar in below 80 cents U.S. and a lot of big things are planned for P.E.I. this summer.

Those factors may persuade more U.S. visitors to head north. We always hear that U.S. tourism drops in an election year and that proved correct in 2008. With a new president installed, maybe his stimulus package will have the desired effect of increasing the spending and purchasing habits of Americans, and boosting the optimism for our neighbours to the south.

All things point to a strong tourism year this summer across Prince Edward Island. The 2009 Canada Summer Games, scheduled for the last two weeks of August, will attract thousands of athletes, officials, family members and spectators. There will be national media coverage and that might provide a boost heading into the fall shoulder season as well.

Old Home Week is celebrating a milestone this August with the 50th running of the Gold Cup and Saucer harness race. There is sure to be extra marketing and hype associated with the race, along with the durable provincial exhibition which underwent considerable modernization efforts in 2008.

July received a big boost earlier this week with the announcement of a major three-day country music festival in Cavendish, coming to a close at the start of the Summerside Lobster Carnival Week. Maybe music fans will stick around for some extra days to enjoy the weather and the big fair in Summerside.

The 2009 tourism marketing, media and public relations plan was unveiled Thursday in Charlottetown and was well received. The TIAPEI meeting was told that a banner year in meetings and conventions is coming up. P.E.I. is already known as Canada’s top golf destination and the airing of the Golf Channel’s Big Break Prince Edward Island next month, will be sure to draw increased interest from golfers across North America and beyond. All these developments present guaranteed opportunities to grow tourism for the province.

But it will be hard to replace the big boost that the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables brought in last year. That anniversary is credited with almost single-handedly salvaging what could have been a very disappointing tourism season.

The current recession has been diagnosed as almost being the result of a false state of mind. We hear so much bad news from other parts of Canada, the U.S. and beyond, that we feel the same must be true here. But our economic indicators are much more robust and we have to think ourselves out of this rut we seem to be in. We had a strong holiday shopping season, car dealers had a big year in 2008, and good things are happening with construction and infrastructure projects.

If the good news and optimism coming out of the tourism conference can be converted into changing the mind-set of Islanders that not all is gloom and doom, then things will indeed be rosier in the days ahead.

Now, if only Mother Nature will co-operate and bring us some better weather, everything should fall into place for a banner 2009 tourism year.

[God bless America and Island optimizim.  We need both.]

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