© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
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Figures released Thursday show growth in several key areas of the tourism sector this season, including a whopping 347 per cent increase in the number of visitors from Japan.
Tourism and Culture Minister Robert Henderson says the latest numbers show continued strength in key areas like overnight stays and air traffic.
“We continue to be very encouraged by the numbers we’re seeing so far for the 2014 tourism season,” Henderson said.
“They give us reason to be optimistic about our ability to meet our goals for growth this year but these are still early numbers, and the picture will become much clearer once we see the statistics from July.”
Kevin Mouflier, president of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I., shares the minister’s positive outlook.
“We’re extremely optimistic over the June results,” Mouflier said.
“There have been some challenges with the weather that contributed to shortfalls in areas like golf and camping but hotel room nights are having a positive impact.”
The TIAPEI president said room nights in some areas are flat but in places like Charlottetown they’re having a great impact on the season.
“June is still early. And with everything that’s going on for 2014 we’re looking forward to some strong numbers. We’re seeing some very strong booking patterns.”
One trend they’re seeing more of is visitors making their travel plans almost spur of the moment, rather than months and months ahead. He said some people are holding off, waiting to see what the weather is going to be like, then booking their holiday.
The Japanese aren’t among those holding off.
Adam Doiron, president of Prince Edward Tours, says the number of Japanese visitors to P.E.I. is definitely up.
“No question, we’ve seen a substantial increase in Japanese visitation,” Doiron said. “I don’t know if I could give you an actual number but the increase is huge. We saw a lot more Japanese visitors in June of this year than last year.”
And he sees no sign of that scenario changing.
Japanese visitations to the province usually start in May and continue right through to October.
The figures released Thursday indicate that June was the fifth consecutive month in P.E.I. where the number of room nights sold increased over the same month last year. That figure was up 5.4 per cent, contributing to a 5.9 per cent increase for the year to date.
The Charlottetown Airport had a record June, reporting an 11.1 per cent increase in traffic compared to last year.
Confederation Bridge saw off-Island traffic increase by 0.6 per cent while Northumberland Ferries reported a four per cent increase.
But not everything is up.
Site nights sold at local campgrounds dropped by one per cent in June after a record month in 2013. There was also a drop in the number of non-member golf rounds, which decreased by 9.7 per cent compared to last June.
Cruise ship traffic also declined, recording a 16.6 per cent decrease in visitations. Bad weatherwas said to have been a factor in that scenario because some scheduled visits were canceled.
Tourism Advisory Council chairman John Anthony Langdale said the results from the first half of 2014 are an encouraging sign that the tourism season is headed in the right direction.
“The Tourism Advisory Council has set a goal of five per cent growth in the industry this year,” Langdale said. “ That goal is supported by increased marketing activities and product investment in the form of the 2014 celebrations. With each passing month we inch closer to meeting that target.”
The statistics released were provided to the province by individual tourism operators and are compiled by staff in the Department of Tourism and Culture.