'We're just thrilled': P.E.I. tourism industry gears up for borders opening to rest of Canada
'It's one step and it's not a magic fix for us'
Members of Prince Edward Island's tourism and accommodations industry are happy to see business picking up as the province's borders open to fully-vaccinated Canadians on July 18.
"This is another great step, I think, towards getting back to operating to our full capabilities," said Corryn Clemence, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.
"Obviously, it's one step and it's not a magic fix for us. We still have a long way to go, but we're really excited."
Clemence said even though the industry lost most of July, she's hopeful August and the fall will be strong. However, tourism on P.E.I. is still not what it used to be before the pandemic.
The tourism sector has been definitely the hardest hit.— John Cudmore
"The reality is our industry as a whole is still struggling and we're not through to the end of this," said Clemence.
'Everyone wants to be here'
John Cudmore, manager of the Holman Grand Hotel in Charlottetown and president of the P.E.I. Hotel Association, said he's been getting more bookings as July 18 approaches. Cudmore said the Holman is about 90 per cent full this weekend.
"Everyone wants to be here. It's a very walkable city. We've got so much culture and great food. You know, how can they not come and be with us?" Cudmore said.
Cudmore said he's happy about border restrictions easing to the rest of Canada this weekend, but he believes tourism industry operators would've preferred restrictions to ease months earlier.
"The tourism sector has been definitely the hardest hit," Cudmore said.
"With the help of the various governments, we can help get the industry back to where it needs to be."
'The worst is behind us'
Sandi Lowther, owner of Fairways Cottages in Cavendish, agrees that business is still not back to pre-pandemic levels, but she is seeing "a huge increase" in new bookings for 2022. She's also already received bookings of guests from Ontario who are arriving after July 18.
"We're actually ahead of reservations on the books for this September than we were in 2019, and that's a big surprise for us," Lowther said.
"We're just thrilled that there's some demand there."
Lowther said P.E.I.'s initial reopening plan caused confusion with tourism operators and customers, which affected her business.
"The first 10 days after the reopening plan, there was mass [booking] cancellation," she said.
Clemence said businesses often contact TIAPEI with questions about changing COVID-19 regulations that affect their businesses.
"We do our best to be that conduit between the province and our operators."
Despite the tumultuous last few months, Lowther is still optimistic about the rest of the 2021 tourism season on P.E.I.
"I think the worst is behind us."
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With files from Tony Davis