P.E.I. government promises more aid for tourism industry soon
‘We certainly have quite a few of our small business operators who already have a big debt load’
Saying federal aid promised for the tourism industry is missing key items, P.E.I. Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay says he will have programs to fill some of those gaps next month.
Earlier this week federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland provided an update on how the federal government plans to cope with the ongoing pandemic, and part of that was low-interest loans that operators in the tourism industry would qualify for.
"There's still a lot of details that we don't know yet," MacKay told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier.
He said he expects to hear more on the next national ministers call, but he does not expect to hear everything he would like.
"There's certainly some things that we've been advocating for that just aren't in this," he said.
"We plan to fill some of these gaps and roll them out in early January."
Corryn Clemence, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I., said loan programs won't be enough for many operators.
"We certainly have quite a few of our small business operators who already have a big debt load," said Clemence.
"With the uncertainty of … the industry in the next 12 months there's a fear and a hesitation on taking additional debt load."
The 2020 tourism season saw business cut by more than half compared to 2019.
There had been hopes that the opening of the Atlantic bubble might be an opportunity to salvage something of the season — New Brunswick and Nova Scotia accounted for 60 per cent of the market in 2019 — but Maritimers did not take advantage of the open border.
While vaccine rollout is expected early in the new year, MacKay does not expect a full recovery in 2021. He does, however, believe the province can do a better job of marketing to the Maritimes.
"We know the Atlantic bubble can work," he said.
"We feel we can utilize that better than we did. By the time we rolled that out and got going it was July 1st. We've had numerous months now to plan for next year."
P.E.I. has positioned itself as a safe destination, and that should help take advantage of any opportunities that do exist for the coming season, he said.
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With files from Island Morning