Brackley Beach, part of the Prince Edward Island National Park. Tourism P.E.I. promotional photo by John Sylvester. Photo special to The Guardian.
P.E.I. could be faced with one of the largest structural changes the tourism industry has seen in a decade.
That’s the word from Don Cudmore, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.
Ahead of TIAPEI’s annual general meeting on Nov. 29 in Charlottetown, the organization is going on tour, with three stops that began on Monday night in Montague, seeking input from stakeholders.
“They are looking for input. They’d like to know what the industry is thinking. Maybe everything is great but I suspect it’s time for change and that’s the kind of feedback we’ll get,’’ Cudmore said.
“It could be very substantial change. I think it could be one of the largest structural changes that the industry has seen in many, many years. Probably 10 years.’’
The last time the industry conducted a review this extensive it ended up forming the Tourism Advisory Council, regional tourism associations and the Tourism Research Centre.
Essentially, they’re taking a hard look at how the province’s tourism industry is managed.
They’ll be looking into the economic impact tourism has.
“We do know what the value of tourism is, to a certain extent, but just the numbers that are presented to Tourism P.E.I. and the treasurer.’’
Secondly, they’ll be looking into ways to make more money. A levy has been floated but Cudmore says no decisions have been made.
“It means how can we raise more dollars for tourism from the industry to help drive numbers or tourism? The committee is looking at all options. They’ve made no decisions.’’
Just as an example, Cudmore said the committee could suggest creative packaging opportunities rather than a straight levy.
“There are some areas of P.E.I. that give their operators an opportunity to co-op a marketing program so you raise more dollars when they buy into that.
In Charlottetown, there is a three per cent levy per night while stays in Summerside have an additional two per cent charge.
Cudmore said they’ll also take a hard look at the visionary and accountable leadership structure of TIAPEI itself.
“It’s time we look at everything again.’’
Cudmore said they need better information on what return P.E.I. gets for the money spent on marketing.
“Right now, we’re marketing a return on investment on tourism by what the provincial marketing budget is. We don’t know what the industry is putting into marketing in various jurisdictions.’’
Tourism brings in $388 million annually, making it one of the largest revenue-generating industries in the province but there’s been no growth in the past eight years.
Numbers will be up two per cent one year and down two per cent the very next year.
“Relatively speaking with the cost of living there has been zero growth. The only thing that has been growing is our expenses and so our industry is telling us we’ve got to find news ways of doing things.’’
There will be two more public sessions — on Wednesday at the Best Western Charlottetown from 7-9 p.m. and Tuesday, Nov. 12, in Summerside at Eastlink Arena from 7 to 9 p.m.