Tourism Charlottetown is asking for a million-dollar lifeline from the province, in part to cover losses from poor ticket sales to a new Cirque du Soleil show over the Canada Day weekend.
'We've realized that the risk and the exposure with that type of event is something that we just can't continue.' — Doug Newson, Tourism Charlottetown
The group announced the show for Summerfest in March, and in the days leading up to the festival, the outlook was good.
"Ticket sales are going very well, phone ringing off the wall for the last number of weeks as people realize now we have this," said Tourism Charlottetown executive director Myrtle Jenkins Smith in June.
"It's just been building every day since Cirque du Soleil has arrived, so we're very, very optimistic."
The Cirque show was meant to revitalize a festival that had run into trouble. Under the name Festival of Lights, it had been a financial success for years, but also had a reputation for attracting drunken crowds to the downtown. In 2009 organizers began revamping the show with more family-friendly acts but ticket sales flopped both years.
Traditionally, the Canada Day weekend event covers about half of the annual costs for Tourism Charlottetown. The organization is now looking for a loan from the province to pay its bills.
"That target is moving around. It will be in the $1 million range. It could be a little bit less, it could be a little bit more," president Doug Newson told CBC News Friday.
"If we get the short-term financing that we need, it will certainly go to meet some payables."
Tourism Charlottetown is now trying to escape from the three-year, $6-million deal with Cirque du Soleil.
"We've realized that the risk and the exposure with that type of event is something that we just can't continue," said Newson.
"At this point in time we are in negotiations with Cirque to probably get out of the next two years of the contract."
The province has hired a consultant from Halifax to do a review of Tourism Charlottetown. Newson hopes the recommendations from that review will put the organization on the path to financial stability.