“We knew,’’ a smiling Premier Robert Ghiz said to a room filled with tourism industry players Thursday, “it was going to be a good year.’’
Celebrating 2014 with all the bells and whistles that tens of millions of dollars could buy was banked on as a sound investment to draw many people to P.E.I.
The numbers, released Thursday by the premier, suggest many tourist operators cashed in well on Islanders and visitors alike as people poured across the province to mark the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference.
This year, in fact, will be a record breaker in the tourism industry, the premier trumpeted during the annual general meeting of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.
Early estimates show 1,359,858 visitors to the province, up 3.8 per cent over 2013.
The big number - the bottom line - shows $401 million in direct spending for an increase of 5.1 per cent.
Both the amount of spending and the number of visitors parting with money were the highest since a new methodology was developed to determine each figure in 2005.
Ghiz predicts tourism operators who did well may not holler from the rooftops that they had a fantastic year. However, he anticipates those that had a poor year to speak up out of disappointment in not benefiting from the much-hyped 2014.
“But the stats don’t lie,’’ the premier says.
“Overall, we’re up and while some may not have been up, I think that it was a great year overall.’’
Ghiz ran through some of the more notable increases in 2014 over the previous year including jumps in overnight stays, passenger traffic, and motorists crossing the Confederation Bridge.
Minister of Tourism and Culture Robert Henderson is thrilled with all the dollars that rolled into the economy with the tourism industry surpassing, ever so slightly, a goal of achieving a five per cent increase in revenue.
Henderson dismissed as “a bit of a fallacy’’ complaints that outlying areas in the province did not benefit from the large amount of money poured into 2014 celebrations.
He pointed to the Canadian Potato Museum in O’Leary, the Georgetown Playhouse Theatre and the West Point Lighthouse all recording their best years ever.
“Yes 40 per cent of the funding was more around the Charlottetown area as far as the 2014 Fund but when you go across Prince Edward Island a lot of them (tourism operators) had a great year,’’ he says.
He also conceded that attracting tourists to play golf in P.E.I. is becoming more challenging but chalks that up to a general decline in the industry across North America.
Here are some notable increases in tourism numbers in 2014 over last year:
— Passenger traffic at the Charlottetown Airport up 7.6 per cent.
— Overnight stays up 5.6 per cent.
— Site nights sold at campgrounds up 8.4 per cent.
— Confederation Bridge traffic up 2.1 per cent.