P.E.I.'s grounded snowbirds to be offered menu of activities this winter

P.E.I.’s snowbirds would have usually flown south by now, but the COVID-19 pandemic has convinced many to stay at home.

Memberships provide tailored experiences for those who would normally not be here

Streets have been quiet in the city, but Downtown Charlottetown Inc. hopes the new program will be beneficial for both businesses and snowbirds who find themselves here. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

Downtown Charlottetown is making plans for P.E.I.'s snowbirds, who usually would have flown south by now.

With COVID-19 cases surging across the continent, health and government officials are urging Canadians not to travel — and have turned resources toward targeting this message to snowbirds specifically.

This means many Islanders who would normally spend the winter months in warmer destinations like Florida, Arizona or Mexico are going to be staying home for the foreseeable future.

"As one of our retailers said, 'I know several who haven't bought a sweater in 30 years,'" said Downtown Charlottetown Inc. executive director Dawn Alan. 

"There'd be an opportunity for retailers to reintroduce this group to downtown shopping and adventure opportunities, but also the snowbirds who would normally have lots of activities, social gatherings and experiences over the winter would be looking for opportunities this year."

Downtown Charlottetown Inc. decided to provide those opportunities, launching a membership program targeted at snowbirds (but also open to any local senior who wants to take part, Alan made clear in an interview with CBC's Laura Chapin).

We wanted to make sure that they felt comfortable and safe in this COVID-19 situation to come downtown.— Dawn Alan, Downtown Charlottetown Inc.

"We want to create small group activities so that snowbirds can winter in our beautiful downtown and still indulge in their socializing and the many activities that they would have experienced, both in a colder situation, but and hopefully, just as fun."

A news release from Downtown Charlottetown elaborates: "Activities might include restaurant private room group dinners, local tours, cooking classes, after-hours private shopping group, art classes, outdoor adventures like sleigh rides and skates, coffee group, weekend hotel packages, cocktail hours, indoor golf sessions, card parties, music, guest speaker sessions… and much more."

The free memberships are available through the organization, but the activities themselves will not be free. Members receive a card, which is required to sign up for groups or adventures or redeem benefits such as special shopping hours.

Alan said it provides a unique opportunity for activity-minded snowbirds to get out, as well as for businesses to make additional revenue through the slower winter months by responding to suggestions about what seniors want to do.

"We wanted to make sure that they felt comfortable and safe in this COVID-19 situation to come downtown and enjoy and partake in those experiences," she said.

"We know that there's hundreds that are here."

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Laura Chapin


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