P.E.I. is expecting up to 10,000 visitors for the Canada Winter Games next month, and while tourism operators are thrilled with the extra business in a typically slow period, they also see it as an opportunity to lure them back in the future.
Corryn Clemence, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island, said excitement is building as hotel bookings continue to come in, and they hope the momentum carries on when the games end.
“We talk a lot with the regional tourism operators and our destination marketing organizations and Tourism P.E.I. on how we can kind of capture the attention from some of those visitors that are coming to say, ‘Hey, it’s great now, come back again, come back in the summer, come back in the spring, come back in the fall,'” Clemence said.
“We are really growing into that year-round destination, so I think we have a perfect opportunity to do that.”
Luke Thompson, guest services manager at the Holman Grand Hotel in Charlottetown, said they have only a few rooms left during the games, which run from Feb. 18 to March 5.
“In terms of February, it’s unlike any February we’ve ever seen,” he said.
“Traditionally, it’s one of the quietest times of the year for accommodations, and we’re almost entirely full for the duration of the games so it’s a boon for everybody.”
Clemence said the benefits extend beyond Charlottetown.
“This is really an Island-wide games, which is very unique to any other games that we would see in Canada.”
The economic impact for P.E.I. is estimated at more than $100 million, based on a study from the 2019 games held in Red Deer, Alta.
It’s safe to say that it will be a very busy two weeks on the Island.— Garet Cameron
In an email to CBC News, Garet Cameron, director of marketing and communications for Canada Winter Games, said 10,000 room nights have already been sold for VIPs, sponsors, mission staff and officials — not counting general visitors and friends and family of participants.
“It’s safe to say that it will be a very busy two weeks on the Island with the majority of hotels in Summerside and Charlottetown at close to 100 per cent occupancy rates, well above the seasonal averages for P.E.I. in February and March.”
Schools on P.E.I. will be closed during the games, extending the regular winter break. It means an added bump for winter destinations such as the Mill River Resort in western P.E.I.
No layoffs at hotel
“Weekends are very busy but we have capacity throughout the week,” said resort president Geoffrey Irving.
“It is primarily P.E.I. March Break traffic, with few rooms booked due to the games.”
It also means some hotels are able to keep employees on the payroll longer.
“A lot of people do get laid off at this, the first quarter, but we haven’t laid off anyone and we’re still in the midst of gearing up,” said Betty Anne Morrison, director of sales and marketing at the Delta Prince Edward by Marriott.
“We still have a few more positions to fill but for the most part we’re ready.”