Strong sales at P.E.I. restaurants in July are an indication that the marketing of the Island as a culinary destination is paying off, says the P.E.I. Restaurant Association.

Sales for July were up 5.4 per cent over last year, which was about the same as tourism growth overall. That is a contrast to 2016, which saw strong growth in tourism but flat restaurant sales.

Carl Nicholson, president of the P.E.I. Restaurant Association, said part of the explanation is a different demographic visiting this year.

"They seem to have a bit more disposable income," Nicholson said.

"We were seeing a higher traffic volume from the Quebec and Ontario markets where they were seeing a lot of rain and bad weather this summer and were gravitating more towards the coast. The good weather here brought more people, and the people that it brought were going to spend more money on dining out."

'Looking for experiences'

Nicholson also credited tourism marketing.

"They're looking for experiences," he said.

"Because tourism has done an excellent job of promoting culinary tourism, and because we have a lot of great restaurants on P.E.I., people are trying to experience those."

The increase in restaurant sales came despite the largest tourism growth coming from campers. That, Nicholson said, is an indication of how camping is changing, with people coming in RVs and trailers rather than tents, and having more of an interest in dining out.