Delegate vs. tourist?

Visitation numbers skyrocket in cool April; conventions, awards push numbers upward

Published on May 28, 2014

Tourism Minister Robert Henderson says visitors are increasingly turning to computers and mobile devices to get information about Prince Edward Island rather than ordering a copy of the annual Visitor Guide.

©Guardian by Heather Taweel

When is a delegate transformed into a tourist? And vice versa. Is there really a difference between the two categories? The provincial department of tourism is not differentiating between them, making the argument that anyone visiting the province is a tourist. It makes those all-so-important tourism numbers look even better. So what if we take a little poetic justice with the semantics of the category?

A definition of a tourist could be anyone who comes to P.E.I. to spend a holiday doing whatever interests them – golf, theatre, beaches, food, historical attractions or scenery. They decided to come on their own, picked their own dates and are here on their own time. It’s a holiday with no pressure about deadlines or work, and the only worry is that the weather co-operates.

A delegate could be defined as a person selected or requested to come here to attend a convention, conference or meeting on their company’s business or as a volunteer member of a for-profit or non-profit group. They come here primarily to fulfill their duties as a delegate but also to enjoy the side benefits of what P.E.I. has to offer whenever the opportunity arises.

Last month, despite as miserable an April in relation to weather as we’ve seen in years, there was a large increase in what our government labeled ‘tourists.’ Well, the heading on a press release said tourists but the copy quickly moved on to discuss visitors and visitations and delegates.

 The first to greet the good news was Tourism and Culture Minister Robert Henderson, who said that many more people than usual came to meet and do business in P.E.I. last month. The number of delegates who attended meetings on the Island approached 1,500, an increase of 300 per cent.

John Anthony Langdale, chair of the Tourism Advisory Council, welcomed the increase as very encouraging. He said that meetings and conventions are key pillars of the province’s tourism strategy and all signs point to a banner year. Much of the credit is going to the new convention centre, which opened in 2013 with the hope of drawing more and larger conventions.

People flocked to P.E.I. in April despite the unseasonable chilly weather because of the East Coast Music Week events and awards, the major international curling cashspiel in Summerside, sports tournaments and other smaller but important meetings and conventions.

May has been almost as miserable in terms of weather. Golf courses barely managed to open and rounds played plummeted 80 per cent. But again, conventions are playing a major role, such as this week’s Newspapers Canada annual conference in Charlottetown and a national forum on economic immigration in Brudenell.

We are getting the bump because of the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, resulting in last week’s royal visit of Prince Charles and Lady Camilla, which drew many visitors as well.

Tourism industry officials are also excited because of the large increase in reservations and web traffic, providing plenty of reason to be optimistic about the rest of the 2014 tourism season. The usual barometers are all positive. Traffic on the Confederation Bridge was up by 11.4 per cent and the number of room nights sold was up by 14.9 per cent compared to April 2013. Members of the hotel motel association are reporting increases of between 15 and 20 per cent in terms of pre-bookings compared to this time last year.

Tourist or delegate, they all spend money on accommodations, food, shopping, gas, etc. Hopefully they have a great time and take home positive impressions to tell their friends and neighbours. Whatever category we call them — delegate or tourist — they are most welcome. And please come again.