PEI

P.E.I. government puts up $1 million to get flights back at Charlottetown Airport

The P.E.I. government announced a tourism action plan for 2021 on Thursday morning, including assistance for Charlottetown Airport.

Provincial tourism plan also includes $3-million grant fund for tourism operators

2020 was a very quiet year at Charlottetown Airport. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

The P.E.I. government has announced a tourism action plan for 2021, which includes assistance for Charlottetown Airport.

The province announced a $1 million Air Access Recovery Program to retain and restore air travel service at Charlottetown Airport, which now has only one Air Canada flight operating, a daily connection to and from Montreal.

"We are extremely pleased that the government of P.E.I. has recognized the importance of air access to our province," airport CEO Doug Newson said in a news release.

"We look forward to working together to rebuild and grow critical air service options."

Along with the P.E.I. tourism industry in general, Charlottetown Airport had been enjoying a string of record-breaking years before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

As bad as the 2020 season was for the Island's tourism industry, it was even worse for Charlottetown Airport, which saw a passenger traffic fall 81 per cent.  

The first sign that the airport might be rebuilding its business came last month, with Flair Airlines announcing it would start service out of Charlottetown in June.

Help for tourism operators

Thursday's announcement included a reannouncement of a $3-million fund for grants to tourism businesses to help them open for the season. That fund was originally announced in last week's provincial budget.

A provincial news release says the grants will be non-repayable, and more details will be released in April.

Minister of Tourism Matthew MacKay said he knows the industry has cash flow issues. 

"It's going to be a grant that's going to help tourism operators open their business for their summer," said MacKay. 

MacKay said more details are expected to be announced in the coming days, and operators will be able to apply by April 1. 

Expect up to $50,000: minister

MacKay said money operators could receive would range from $2,500 to $50,000.

"We do feel that it's going to be a better season than last year,"  he said. 

As well, the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. will receive funds to hire "a tourism operator advisor to help the industry navigate available supports and programs."

At Thursday's announcement, MacKay expressed optimism for the 2021 season, referencing an expected reopening of the Atlantic bubble.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Laura Meader

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