Shaky U.S. economy means fewer P.E.I. visitors

Many people say P.E.I. tourism is down because of gas prices and the shaky American economy.

While tourism on P.E.I. has been suffering this summer in part because of the poor weather, many people say gas prices and the shaky American economy are also to blame.

The latest numbers indicate the number of people coming to P.E.I. over the Confederation Bridge and by air are both down about four per cent.

People taking the ferry are down about 6 1/2 per cent.

U.S. tourist overnight stays in Prince Edward Island were down 15 per cent in June from the same month in 2010.

Jamie Fox, who owns Gateway Petroleum, said a sure sign that there are fewer tourists is gas sales, which are down about six per cent overall.

"We are not seeing the same numbers we have seen in previous years. We're seeing Maritime vehicles, but very few vehicles from the States."

Fox said he's hearing from Americans that there's just no money to travel for many of them this summer.

"Very concerned about the economy," said Florida resident Wallace Barwise. "The way that the stock market is going right now and the unemployment."

Many other tourist operators, like Jeannette Arsenault with Cavendish Figurines, said Americans are just not coming in droves like they used to.

"They [U.S. tourists] say they can see a lot of the economy going bad, the ones that are here, they usually say 'we're travelling, we're happy,' but they are very few compared to what it used to be years ago," said Arsenault.

Island treasurer Wes Sheridan said he knows tourism is an important economic generator, so he has been watching what's happening in the U.S.

"We've been worried of course that the debt ceiling wouldn't be resolved … the final vote went through … now we're seeing labour market numbers up a bit higher than they expected … so it's showing that there doesn't seem to be this double-dip that everyone was worried about down there," said Sheridan.

Fox said Sheridan was too calm about the U.S. economy.

"He's not living in the real world," said Fox. "It's just as simple as that. We've got to be careful."

With tourism numbers down in June, operators are not expecting a better July, given the dismal weather.

Many are worried the downward trend will continue throughout the rest of the summer and fall.