The Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. (TIAPEI) believes those visiting the province’s National Park should pay on their way out, not on their way in.
TIAPEI has presented a formal proposal to Parks Canada asking the national body to consider charging people as they leave instead of stopping them as they go in.
Don Cudmore, executive director of TIAPEI, says it’s their opinion more people would use the National Park is they didn’t have to pay the flat rate.
Right now, for example, it costs a family of four $19.60 to enter P.E.I.’s National Park. Under a new proposed rate adjustment that same family will pay $20.58 this summer, if the rate adjustments are approved.
Parks Canada has entered the public consultation phase of their plan, which concludes Feb. 18. The federal government will make a decision after that. If approved, new rates will apply this coming season.
“We really think it would be a good pilot project for Parks Canada to try at the gates,’’ Cudmore told The Guardian on Wednesday in describing their pay-as-you-leave idea. “Treat it like a parking garage in that you pay for the amount of time you’re in there.’’
According to TIAPEI’s research, a family from P.E.I. might spend the entire day at the beach while a family visiting from away is more apt to spend just part of the day there yet both pay the same flat rate.
“We did some research a few years back that told us the beach experience, even for people who come to P.E.I. for a beach experience, only tend to spend two to three hours a day on the beach. They experience the other areas around the parks while they’re here.
“Should they pay the same fee for two hours as they would for eight hours?’’
Cudmore said TIAPEI is also of the opinion that Parks Canada would make money - or at least break even - by charging people for the time they spend in the park.
“We know there is a steady stream of vehicles turning around at the entry points and don’t get to visit the beach on P.E.I. It’s a part of the must-see experience for visitors but is it worth the price of admission to drive through it for an hour?’’
Cudmore isn’t exactly optimistic Parks Canada will be overly enthused about TIAPEI’s idea but, considering tourism accounts for seven per cent of the province’s gross domestic product, they need to listen.
“This is a serious, urgent issue for tourism here on Prince Edward Island because it is such a part of our product,’’ he said, referring to the proposed rate changes.