Prince Edward Island

Fostering a

tourism partnership

Photography courtesy of Tourism PEI
Article by Julia Smith, CBDC Central PEI

As the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world, small businesses struggled to survive. For three years Tourism PEI and the CBDCs of PEI banded together to administer programs offering critical financial relief.

Who would have ever imagined a world shut down due to a pandemic? As an Island, Prince Edward Island (PEI) was extremely fortunate to be able to restrict access to help control the influx of the COVID-19 disease.

When the lock-down first started, and officials said it would only be for a few weeks? That soon turned into months, then years, Islanders are still feeling the effects.

PEI business owners strongly rely on the short, summer tourism season to make enough money to carry them through to the next season; so, when PEI and the world completely shut down for the first year, many businesses were barely able to survive.

Year two consisted of majorly restricted access to PEI tourism operations with operators having to implement expensive changes to meet the COVID-19 protection protocols, and/or to pivot their business which added a new and extreme level of stress.

April 6, 2021, the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture quickly came to the table with a program to help this devastatingly, hard hit industry.

The “Tourism Activation Grant”, more commonly known as “TAG” was developed. Tourism PEI reached out to the three Island Community Business Development Corporations, (CBDC Central PEI, CBDC Eastern PEI and CBDC Western PEI) for their partnership and expertise to administer the program.

“These types of programs have been a saving grace for PEI tourism businesses”, said Claus Schmidt, Executive Director of CBDC Central PEI. “Without these types of programs, many businesses would have had to close their doors permanently which would have been devastating to the Island economy.”

The TAG program provided tourism businesses with a non-repayable financial contribution toward eligible expenses to assist with capital and/or maintenance costs associated with opening for the 2021 season. This program was designed to support investments that would help tourism businesses adapt to a new normal and be best positioned to capitalize on economic recovery post COVID-19.

The first year the TAG program was able to inject approximately three million dollars into the much-needed industry. The COVID-19 effects lasted longer than anyone thought they would and as a result, a second year of the TAG program rolled out providing approximately 1.5 million additional dollars in financial support. Business owners were required to meet specific guidelines to access the funding.

Over 285 businesses were able to receive this much needed cash infusion.

“We used the TAG grant to complete the needed maintenance on our cottages, implementation of the COVID-19 requirements and to install laundry room facilities so that we could offer our guests a full-service experience,” said Monique Geurts, Victoria Cottages.

In 2023, The Tourism Seasonal Extension Program, “TSEP” was released. It is a non-repayable financial contribution program provided by the Government of PEI, administered through a partnership between Tourism PEI and the three PEI CBDC’s.

It is a 1.5 million dollar program intended to support capital investments to assist eligible tourism businesses to remain open on a multi-season basis and drive economic activity across PEI in historically lower-demand periods. To date, over seventy-five businesses received approval for assistance.

Schmidt proudly states that “CBDC’s are proud to have been a part of this process from day one! It gives us such great satisfaction to see how strong and positive our Island entrepreneurs are! They are so resilient and brave to pivot their businesses to meet the new normal.”

“While the pandemic was hard on everyone, it has given us the opportunity, and perspective, to look at new or alternate ways of doing business,” said Minister of Fisheries, Tourism, Sport, and Culture Cory Deagle.

"Our operators, industry and government worked together to ensure that Prince Edward Island’s tourism product could – and did – rebound. CBDCs played and will continue to play an important part in the successful delivery of tourism programming."


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