Kensington groups creating plan to draw more tourists

Groups in Kensington are working together in the hopes of attracting more tourists to the town and surrounding area.

Businesses and groups aim to attract tourists after the town lost its welcome centre in 2017

Several groups, including the Town of Kensington, are working together to create a tourism strategy for the town and surrounding area. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Groups in Kensington, P.E.I., are working together to attract more tourists to the area.

The town, along with the local chamber of commerce, businesses and the Central Coastal Tourism Partnership, are all working together to create a long-term tourism strategy.

They hope to get funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to help make it a reality, said Nicole Mountain of the Kensington and Area Chamber of Commerce.

"We're in such a central hub and a central spot in the Island," she said. "We have so much traffic through here in the summer and even throughout the whole year, and it just, it's an ideal spot for us to kind of grow and encourage more people to come to the area."

Nicole Mountain, with the Kensington and Area Chamber of Commerce, says the area can benefit from its central location. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The groups have been talking for several years about creating a tourism strategy. But it was after the town lost its welcome centre last year that they thought it was time to look at new ways to attract people to the area. 

Focus on collaboration

Mountain believes the key to success will be to get businesses to work together, and to create "experiential" tourism opportunities. 

"Rather than just, you know, showing up and visiting, it's 'OK, what can we do to experience this area,"' she said. "So whether it's going out to one of the fishing villages in the area and going on a fishing boat or learning more about that industry, or going out to the farms and learning about that industry — just finding ways to get visitors more involved and you know, making more fun, new opportunities for them."

I think you've got to look beyond the coming summer.- Don Quarles, The Indian River Festival

Don Quarles, executive director of The Indian River Festival, agrees that collaboration is key. 

"I've certainly found that collaborations and partnerships with other organizations, and really just letting people know what we're doing, have helped," he said.

Don Quarles, with The Indian River Festival, is helping with the project. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Festival attendance was up in 2017, Quarles said, and he'd like to see that trend continue. He's volunteered to help with the tourism strategy partnership. 

"I think you've got to look beyond the coming summer. I mean, ultimately, I think most people will realize that every dollar spent on tourism actually brings those of us in the community probably two or three times that in return," he said.

Gathering ideas, preparing application 

The groups plan to apply to ACOA's Strategic Tourism Expansion Program (STEP), which would offer guidance and funding for creating the strategy, and executing it. 

They have held a few meetings so far, including a meeting earlier this month where about 35 business owners brainstormed and shared their ideas about what's important in their community, and what they'd like to see in the area going forward. 

At a recent meeting, local business owners brainstormed ideas about what they would like to see for the future of the Kensington area. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

In the coming weeks, the organizers will continue to talk to local businesses and come up with ideas. Mountain said they hope to submit their ACOA application in the next month. But she said even if they don't receive the funding, they will still go ahead and create a tourism strategy.