P.E.I. campgrounds struggling to prepare with lack of government information
‘I was absolutely blindsided’
Can campers use my washrooms? Will I have to close some campsites? Will there be tourists from off-Island?
These are some of the questions with no answers that are making it difficult for campground operators on P.E.I. to prepare for the summer season, and the restrictions that will be imposed in the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a season that was going to start on June 12, until a week ago, when operators suddenly learned it was going to start June 1.
"I was absolutely blindsided," said Darren Cousins, a co-owner of Twin Shores Camping Area
"I got the first call of, 'Can we come in on June 1st,' I didn't even know what they were talking about."
Cousins said he is happy to be opening earlier, but some warning would have been appreciated, especially as he keeps hearing in the news media about how industry is being consulted on pandemic rules and guidelines.
"We've been asking for three weeks now for guidelines and I'm sure I'm not the only one in this boat," said Cousins.
"Twin Shores is the biggest single-site accommodation for 1,000 kilometres and nobody asked me. And I tried to give my opinion, and other than having a wonderful MLA, he couldn't get me any information either."
Core staff intact
There are 700 campsites and 20 cottages at Twin Shores, which employs more than 300 people in a typical summer. But Cousins currently has no answers about work for his seasonal employees, because he doesn't know yet if he can take reservations from the other Maritime provinces.
He is grateful, however, that he can ensure work for his core staff.
"It's hard to hire somebody to clean bathrooms. You know, the crew I have, I would take a bullet for them and they do an awesome job," said Cousins.
"That was one of my biggest worries, is that if we don't get to open and I lose those people to another business that can open. That's a disaster for me."
Physical distancing worries
But bathrooms are still a big question for Tanya Calver at the All Points East Campground. It's a much smaller operation than Twin Shores, with just 40 sites and one public bath house.
"The two big things for us is that we know with certainty that we'll be allowed to open our public washrooms, and that we know that we're able to utilize all of our sites," said Calver.
"That'll be very detrimental to us because we're so small."
Looking at what's happening in other provinces, Calver believes their sites are big enough that they can all open, she said. All Points East would survive with just half of its sites open, she added, but it would be heartbreaking to have to call people and cancel reservations.
Twin Shores will also make it through the year, one way or another, said Cousins.
"Twin Shores is not going anywhere," he said.
"This is going to be our 51st year. We may have to dip into our equity and do something creative, but we'll be here next year."
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With files from Island Morning