P.E.I. business group says reopening plan puts them at 'clear disadvantage'

A group of P.E.I. businesses has sent a letter to the province voicing concerns around the upcoming tourist season. 

N.B. reopening earlier than P.E.I., offering rebates to travellers from Atlantic Canada

Kevin Murphy said comments he's hearing from tourists are 'red flags' for the business community. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

A group of P.E.I. businesses has sent a letter to the province voicing concerns around the upcoming tourist season and how it puts them at a "clear disadvantage" with provinces that are reopening sooner. 

Now that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have released their reopening plans, the group says P.E.I. needs to tweak its plan. New Brunswick is allowing residents of P.E.I. into the province — without self-isolating — on June 7, 20 days before P.E.I. reciprocates. And Island residents who travel to New Brunswick before June 27 will still be still be required to self-isolate when they return.

New Brunswick is also offering rebates to Atlantic Canadian travellers who stay in the province at least one night.

Kevin Murphy, the spokesperson for the P.E.I. Business Continuity Group, said they've been consulting with the province on what businesses want to see from the reopening. 

In a letter to the province, the group said: "Our tourism industry is at a clear disadvantage, the traditional 'best months' of the season will be lost and the pandemic 2021 season which was supposed to be better than 2020 has the potential for being worse. This, without a doubt, would be devastating for the industry."

Premier Dennis King said on Sunday that P.E.I. is not in a race with other provinces to reopen. But Murphy said P.E.I.'s plan includes too many restrictions and is worried local businesses will be left behind their Maritime counterparts.

"It's not just, you know, operators, it's really the tourists now that are commenting on this. And when we hear that, that's red flags all over the place of business that's being cancelled."

Tourism officials said P.E.I. is working on an incentive plan to bring visitors to the Island, which will rival the plan introduced in New Brunswick. But Murphy said those incentives won't be much good if visitors feel restrictions are too severe to come to the Island.

Airlines scaling back

He said he has heard from some operators who are considering staying closed this summer.

P.E.I.'s reopening plans are also causing some airlines to reduce the number of flights into Charlottetown at least for the early part of the summer.

Liberal Tourism Critic Heath MacDonald said the province needs to take a second look at its plan. 

"Why can't the three premiers of the Atlantic provinces get together, have a more linear approach to this?" he said. "We know competition is going to be fierce in the tourism industry. COVID has put us on a level playing field and we need to be aggressive and we need to be ready."

Officials with King's office said they will review the business leaders' concerns with the chief public health office. 

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Wayne Thibodeau