Marco Polo Land wins national campground award after adapting to 'totally different season'

Marco Polo Land in Cavendish, P.E.I., has been named large campground of the year by a national camping and RV council.

Cavendish campground has added new amenities over the past year or so

2020 was the first year for the new water park at Marco Polo Land. (Marco Polo Land)

Marco Polo Land in Cavendish, P.E.I., has been named large campground of the year by a national camping and RV council.

The campground was selected from hundreds of nominations across the country, said Shane Devenish, executive director of the Canadian Camping and RV Council. Marco Polo Land is the first recipient of the award, which will be presented annually for the top campground with 250 sites or more.

Devenish said Marco Polo Land was chosen because of the amenities it has added over the last year, including a new water park and deluxe cabins that capitalize on the "glamping" trend.

"The ability to have deluxe cabins at a campground now is becoming really popular because it allows people to experience the outdoor camping experience without having to have an RV or a tent."

KOA Cornwall a finalist

Devenish said the entries were whittled down to three finalists, which also included another campground on P.E.I. — KOA in Cornwall. The other finalist was the Camperland Resort in Rosedale, B.C.

Hennie Hoekstra, who has owned Marco Polo Land since 2006, said winning the award was special after a "totally different season" due to COVID-19.

Campground owner Hennie Hoekstra says many of the activities had to take place outside due to public health restrictions. (Marco Polo Land)

"It's a really nice honour to receive … not only good for Marco but for the province."

Hoekstra said the COVID-19 pandemic was not as bad for Marco Polo Land as it was for other tourism businesses such as restaurants and cottage rentals. She said many of her customers were Islanders and others from within the Atlantic bubble when it was in place.

Had to be 'a little bit creative'

She said while some parts of the business, such as the inn and the restaurant, were down, others, such as campsite and cabin rentals, were up, which helped to even out the bottom line.

She said they had to move some activities, such as bingo, outside due to public health restrictions.

"You could still do lots of activities, you just had to be a little bit creative," she said.

Hoekstra said she expects 2021 will be similar, at least until more people are vaccinated.

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