PEI

P.E.I. tourism operators preparing for season of uncertainty

The summer may seem like a long way off — but Island tourism businesses are already busy hiring staff and planning for the season ahead.

Operators hoping for Atlanic bubble to reopen

Fairway Cottages in Cavendish would usually be booked up by golfing groups across Canada, says owner Sandi Lowther. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The summer may seem like a long way off but Island tourism businesses are already busy hiring staff and planning for the season ahead.

However, trying to do that has been tough with so much uncertainty around travel due to current pandemic health measures.

Fairway Cottages in Cavendish would usually be booked up by golfing groups across Canada, says owner Sandi Lowther.

It's hard to tell if out-of-province golfers will be booking up her cottages this year.

"That's the hardest thing we're dealing with, is the uncertainty," Lowther said.

"This is the time of year we're interviewing for new employees. We can't 100 per cent say this is going to be your start date because we don't know when we're going to have a start date."

Lowther owns Fairway Cottages in Cavendish. She says she doesn't know how many out-of-province golfers will be booking this upcoming season given travel restrictions. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Right now, Lowther said she has questions about whether the Atlantic bubble will be re-established by summer.

"Is there going to be an Atlantic Canada bubble? And when do we get to open our doors to people from other provinces in Canada?"

Last year the Atlantic bubble kept her business afloat, Lowther said.

At a health briefing on Wednesday, P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said with so much uncertainty around Canada's vaccine supply and new COVID-19 variants it's impossible to predict what travel may look like this summer.

Matthew Jelley, president of Maritime Fun Group and mayor of the Cavendish Resort Municipality, said he has been trying to hire for attractions like Shining Waters and Sandspit.

Jelley said the worry isn't just about travel — but about rules around capacity and how many people will be allowed at attractions.

"We have to prepare for perhaps less visitation than last year, perhaps something similar, or perhaps it'll be a little more.  And each of those has consequences on how we do it.  It's been challenging to prepare for that."

'The wage subsidy, the rent subsidy, the things that have been put in place and expanded as long as into June of this year were critical in businesses getting through until now,' says Matthew Jelley, president of Maritime Fun Group. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Jelley said businesses also don't know what government support will be offered this summer.

There's been no guarantee programs like the wage subsidy, for example, will be offered again.

"The wage subsidy, the rent subsidy, the things that have been put in place and expanded as long as into June of this year were critical in businesses getting through until now," Jelley said.

"In order for businesses to continue to survive, if we have another summer where we are at restrictions and restricted capacities, those supports are going to have to be extended, or even more businesses are going to be going out of business."

Lowther said her planning strategy is built around "hope."

She said she is banking on the wage subsidy to continue and will market as if the Atlantic bubble will reopen.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Steve Bruce

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