People in Japan visiting Green Gables virtually thanks to one P.E.I. tour company
P.E.I. Select Tours is running virtual tours to keep people interested in the province
As the second summer of the COVID-19 pandemic approaches on P.E.I. with an uncertain tourist season ahead, one Island company is making it possible for would-be Japanese tourists to come for a visit — virtually.
P.E.I. Select Tours, which caters exclusively to Japanese tourists, recently held a live Zoom tour of Green Gables Heritage Place, allowing participants a peek inside the house made famous in L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables books, which are extremely popular in Japan.
But it wasn't the gable room decorated to look like Anne Shirley's bedroom, or the visitors' centre that got the most attention from the people in Japan who logged on.
"I saw snow flying all over the place. And then customers think, 'Wow, snow in April in P.E.I.' … they are so fascinated," said Katsue Masuda, operations manager of P.E.I. Select Tours, who gave the live tour on her phone.
They are a little shy to talk by Zoom. So very quiet on the other end.- Katsue Masuda, P.E.I. Select Tours
"They want to see P.E.I. live now. That's what they are very interested in."
Masuda gave her first virtual tour to people in Japan last October, when P.E.I. Select Tours was approached by a Japanese travel agency.
"It was very weird," said Masuda. "I think I had more than 20 people, they are connecting and they are a little shy to talk by Zoom. So very quiet on the other end."
Frozen Lake of Shining Waters
She said she has since become more familiar with leading virtual tours, and has also given tours of the Anne of Green Gables museum in Park Corner, and a walking tour of downtown Charlottetown.
Masuda said some of the people who log onto the tours have never visited P.E.I., but others have.
"From Park Corner, I showed them … everything frozen right now, like frozen Lake of Shining Waters," she said, referring to the pond next to the museum that's been given a name from the Anne books.
"Especially people who have been to P.E.I., [they've] never seen the frozen Lake of Shining Waters."
The owner and operator of P.E.I. Select Tours, Kelly Doyle, said in his experience with Japanese tourists, they appreciate the four seasons on P.E.I.
"We could ... take them through an apple blossom orchard and the ladies can spend three or four hours there just walking around and smelling blossoms and talking about the beauty of it all," said Doyle.
"They do appreciate some interesting things that maybe other people will just drive by and say, 'That's nice.'"
We're just trying to keep our head above water and keep the interest from Japan healthy.— Kelly Doyle, P.E.I. Select Tours
Masuda also held a live stream during the winter where she cooked strawberry shortcake in her P.E.I. kitchen.
"I am trying, and also I'm just diversifying … different virtual tours," she said.
She was helped along by Doyle, a retired fisherman, who built a lobster trap for another live virtual event.
"Our business is just literally being there and experiencing it real. But we're just doing the best we can until we can get people here," said Doyle.
Virtual tours a 'future investment'
He said the company is staying afloat during the pandemic thanks to the government wage subsidy.
The virtual tours are only making them enough money to pay for the gas for the car.
"The virtual tour … is just for the future investment, [so] people will keep the interest on P.E.I.," said Masuda.
"We're hoping that's not going to be the trend in the future, but it's going to be the filler-in, something to keep people's interest in these destinations," said Doyle.
"We're just trying to keep our head above water and keep the interest from Japan healthy and hopefully take it all back up where it left off in 2019."