Like many businesses that rely on tourism dollars, Bill and Mary Kendrick of Stratford are just trying to survive this season.
While the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic has caused many tourism operators on P.E.I. to consider shutting down, the Kendricks decided to get innovative with their cultural and food tour operation, Experience P.E.I.
Since tourists won’t be here in person to sample the culture, they have launched P.E.I. in a Box, a unique take on their popular walking food tour, Taste the Town.
“It’s a great way for us to support other Island businesses," said Bill.
“It is a phrase, but we really are all in this together and tourism is such an important industry on P.E.I. We’re all suffering right now."
For the past 15 years, the Kendricks have partnered with other businesses to offer real-life experiences to tourists. They started out with six partners the first year, and the list is up to 26 now, all on P.E.I.
Mary said the experiences range from having Maurice Bernard teach adults and kids how to build sandcastles; learning about lobster and mussel fishing from a former fisherman; to working with Jamie Stride from Island Falconry. Tourists get to talk to real experts about real-life experiences on P.E.I. Nothing is scripted. Visitors get real answers from real people.
However, those opportunities won’t exist this year, and the Kendricks find themselves having to pivot like everyone else.
"P.E.I. in a Box is a fabulous idea and is going to allow people to have that taste of P.E.I. when they can’t come here."
“Basically, we’ve lost 100 per cent of our business," Mary said, citing not only visitors arriving by airplane, ferry or bridge, but business off cruise ships, motorcoach tours and conventions.
“We can never replace what we’re losing this year. P.E.I. in a Box is a fabulous idea and is going to allow people to have that taste of P.E.I. when they can’t come here. It will help keep P.E.I. in (people’s minds)."
Sourcing from local producers and shipping nationwide, the box includes lobster meat, potatoes, cured meat, cheese, raspberry cordial and a few other surprises. It’s basically a meal for two.
The box also comes with a virtual component featuring a cooking class with Caron Prins, owner of the Chip Shack on the Charlottetown waterfront, a musical serenade with local musician Irish Mythen, a reading from chapter 16 from Anne of Green Gables from an actress who performed in Anne and Gilbert (the story of Anne and Diana’s experience with raspberry cordial) and more.
Taste of P.E.I.
The following is additional information about how Stratford-based tourism business Experience P.E.I. is handling things this season:
It is working with the following partners to send P.E.I. food across Canada — MR Seafoods, lobster; Roberts Family Farm, potatoes; Cows Creamery, cheese, chips, cordial; forty-six north, yo-yo’s handmade cookies; P.E.I. Preserve Company, hot pepper jelly; Fortune Bridge Brinery, pickled chips; The Butcher Shop, salumi; Annands, bar clams (Note: some products restricted to either local or off-Island shipments).
- Everything in the box has been packed with health and safety in mind. It has been properly sanitized before being packed, but customers may wish to wipe everything down as it is removed from the box.
- Anyone having lobster meat or cheese shipped is asked to refrigerate as soon as it is removed from the box.
- When a person receives their confirmation of sales, they should have received the link to their virtual guidebook, which includes the cooking class, Island videos and other information that will help people further enjoy these Island treats.
- On the web: experiencepei.ca/guidebook/pei-box.
The Kendricks are donating $5 from every box sold to the Upper Room food bank in Charlottetown.
And, whether it’s the old-fashioned in-person experiences the Kendricks sell or the current box idea, they say not only are they supporting other Island businesses, but many customers return to order directly from the companies.
“Prince Edward Island holds such an important place in a lot of people’s hearts and we know that a lot of people out there are disappointed that they’re not going to be able to come here this summer," Bill said.
“We thought, there’s probably a longing out there that people have ... and we might be able to fill that need, just to have something from P.E.I."
Since Experience P.E.I. already specialized in a lot of food-based experiences, Bill said the P.E.I. in a Box idea “is just an extension for us".