PEI

P.E.I. missing out on millions due to cancelled conventions, meeting group says

Ninety-five per cent of the meetings and conventions scheduled to happen on P.E.I. this year have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the executive director of Meetings and Conventions P.E.I.

'The entire large convention book of business has been essentially wiped out'

A Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island conference held last October, before the COVID-19 pandemic. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

Ninety-five per cent of the meetings and conventions scheduled to happen on P.E.I. this year have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the executive director of Meetings and Conventions P.E.I.

Most conferences and business-related events have been moved to next year, or into 2022 and 2023.

"The entire large convention book of business has been essentially wiped out for Prince Edward Island," Susan Freeman said.

In 2019, the meetings and conventions sector accounted for more than 155 meetings on P.E.I., which translates into about $21 million for the Island economy, a release from Meetings and Conventions P.E.I. said.

"They spend everywhere. They rent cars, they get gas, they travel in by air or by land, they spend in retail, they spend in food and beverage, so their spend is wide," Freeman said.

Freeman wants her group to work with local businesses and public health officials to find a way to make meetings and conventions safe during the pandemic.

Local first

Freeman said the not-for-profit marketing organization is adapting to doing business while adhering to COVID-19 restrictions.

"We've realigned our strategies to look at smaller local first," she said. "And then regional, from our Atlantic bubble."

Freeman said some of the staff have been trained on virtual meetings and events planning, and they are working with groups to help ensure annual meetings or smaller conventions are operated in line with health protocols.

"We've seen some nuggets of optimism," she said.

Some meetings are going ahead by running what she calls "hybrid conferences," where smaller groups of 10 from within the Atlantic bubble meet in person and the remainder of participants join virtually.

Others are continuing to do day meetings, which is "great for the venues that are hosting but of course we also like to see the full food and beverage and accommodations and speakers and transportation," she said.

"We'd like to see that come back."

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Angela Walker

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