P.E.I. July tourism results still 'really sting,' but show signs of recovery

The P.E.I. tourism industry saw some big improvements in July of this year compared to 2020, but is still far off the record pace that was set in 2019.

Rooms and campsites available for booking on the rise

The Island tourism industry was preparing to greet visitors in July after months of strong border restrictions. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

The P.E.I. tourism industry saw some big improvements in July of this year compared to 2020, but is still far off the record pace that was set in 2019.

The pandemic has hit the tourism industry harder than any other, and P.E.I. in particular has had stricter border controls than most jurisdictions.

Overnight stays increased by nearly 50 per cent in July 2021 compared to a year before, but were still 45 per cent below July 2019.

"The numbers that still sting are, I guess they all really sting, but cruise and motorcoach are still at zero in July," said Corryn Clemence, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.

At the end of September, in the depths of the fourth wave, it can be difficult to remember that pandemic conditions were looking bright as the tourism industry moved into the high summer season.

P.E.I. opened to partially vaccinated Atlantic Canadians on June 27, and announced a couple of days later it would open to Canadians from outside the region on July 18. The industry looked ahead to welcoming American visitors in August.

'Hopeless optimism '

And operators seemed to respond. The number of nights of accommodation available, rooms and campsites, while still below 2019 levels, started to bounce back.

"We are an industry of hopeless optimism in good times and bad," said Clemence.

"I think we've seen that over the years."

The number of room nights available rose 11 per cent, and the number of campsites was up 20 per cent.

August numbers are not yet available, but it is worth remembering that the weather in July was cold and wet, which is a factor in particular for Maritime travellers.

Clemence said she has been hearing August was a better month than July, which could partly have been due to the weather, or may have reflected a growing confidence from travellers.

The tourism industry is still in survival mode, says Corryn Clemence. (Tony Davis/CBC)

2020, which like 2021 saw an opening of the border around Canada Day, had improved numbers in August as people became more comfortable with travel again.

While Clemence is hopeful the August numbers will look better, she said the tourism  business is not out of the woods yet.

"We are far from recovered," she said.

"We're still in survival mode as an industry and looking for ways to help our membership and our operators get through the winter months so that we can start to rebuild and recover next year."


Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. Kevin has a specialty in data journalism, and how statistics relate to the changing lives of Islanders. He has a BSc and a BA from Dalhousie University, and studied journalism at Holland College in Charlottetown. You can reach him at


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