P.E.I. is expecting a banner tourism year in 2014, but a big drop in visitors to Province House last year have some tourism operators concerned tourists may not be interested in visiting the birthplace of Confederation.
During the annual tourism conference in Charlottetown this week, detailed figures were released showing how the tourism industry fared in 2012.
One of these figures shows the total number of visitors to Province House dropped by about 20 per cent last year.
Amusement park owner and president of the Cavendish Beach and the Dune Shores Tourism Association Matthew Jelley raised concern about this during a presentation of the 2014 plans at the tourism conference Friday.
“In a reasonably good year for tourism last year, a year where it was great to stroll around and a banner year for cruises, 20 per cent less people – that’s a lot of people that are not going to our birthplace,” Jelley said.
“What do we have to give us confidence that anybody cares?”
Jay MacDonald, owner of Elmwood Heritage Inn, also expressed concern. He pointed to the fact Province House plans to reduce the number of hours it will be open to the public during the shoulder seasons, limiting its operating hours to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
He worries this could further reduce interest in the national historic site.
“We don’t need an office hour mentality,” MacDonald said.
“Maybe we can work together in having an intervention with Parks Canada.”
Penny Walsh McGuire, executive director of P.E.I. 2014 Inc., says she is confident her organization and the province can work with the federal government regarding logistics and in building awareness and interest across the country about the 150th anniversary of the Confederation Conference in Charlottetown.
“We’re working with a number of organizations, including the government of Canada, to really embark on an awareness program through our marketing and through their endeavors to ensure this is given a focus in 2014 to all Canadians,” Walsh McGuire said.
During this meeting, Walsh McGuire also gave industry stakeholders a sneak peek into some of the events being planned for the 2014 celebrations.
The year will kick off with an opening concert on Dec. 31 of this year in a New Year’s Eve celebration at Province House.
Organizers are currently working on developing a 2014 theme song that will likely be performed at this event.
Later in the year for Canada Day celebrations will feature an enhanced Canada Day concert series, fireworks and family friendly activities.
Founders Week at the end of August will be the focal point of the year when the 150th anniversary takes place. A historic gala and ball, reenactments and promenades, an Island-wide block party and the Tall Ships festival will likely be part of this week.
Throughout the spring, summer and fall, a 2014 celebration area will be created within a two-block area of downtown Charlottetown. This area will likely host concerts, children’s entertainment, buskers and food tastings.
The year will close with another New Year’s Eve celebration, complete with a concert and family activities.
As for the projected budget for these festivities, Walsh McGuire was short on details.
“It really isn’t defined yet. Right now we have $2 million for operations for this year, we’ve announced a $5 million (community project) fund and really those are where we are in terms of confirmed budgets,” she said.