The Impact of Tourism
Tourism is one of the most prevalent traditional industries on PEI – agriculture and fisheries being two others. Since the 1800s, PEI has been marketed as a quaint getaway. After 200 years, that part certainly has not changed. What has changed is the media. With the advent of the internet, tourist information is now at people’s fingertips. Booking sites (e.g. Airbnb), data, and videos can be used by virtually anyone on the planet at any time.
Although preliminary, Tourism PEI reports that total visitation (same-day and overnight) to PEI during 2018 was 1,578,395 people, with 599,342 of them having visited Summerside. In 2015, the numbers were 1,410,316 (539,438), while in 2012, they were 1,227,550 (468,007). Ever since 2011, there has been an upward trend in this number and there is no reason why that would cease. Our golfing, beaches, campgrounds, restaurants, amusements, residents, accommodations, festivals, and serene beauty have all combined to form a juggernaut of an industry.
In 2017, the estimated total expenditure for PEI visitors was $447 million. This is an encouraging and record-setting number but what does this number mean for Summerside? We house around 10% of PEI’s population, so it stands to reason that we would see around 10% of the proceeds. We can refer to Tourism PEI’s Exit Survey for further details.
Exit Surveys are common reports used by regions to measure many metrics, including length of stay, origin, travel method, expenditure, location of stay, primary reason for travel, party size, and many more. As with any survey, they are not cheap and are time-consuming. The last time this survey was conducted was 2014, with the next slated for this year (2019). Nonetheless, the 2014 version can still provide us with some insights. It is important to note that the Exit Survey is only conducted with overnight visitors.
In 2014, there were 50,737 pleasure parties (138,557 people total) that stayed overnight in Summerside with an associated direct expenditure of $34,714,714. This represented around 8% of the total PEI expenditure. The top 3 categories were Accommodations (30.6%), Food and Beverage at Restaurants and Bars (22.4%), and Shopping (15.2%). While the number of males and females were near parity, the age groups were more telling. The top 3 categories in this case were ages 55-64 (34,593 people), ages 65-74 (24,728 people), and ages 45-54 (22,210 people).
Most of Summerside’s visitors come from Canada, particularly Nova Scotia (34.9%) and New Brunswick (26.4%). The United States and Other International represent 8.7% and 1.1% of the visitors, respectively. Unsurprisingly, 83.7% of visitors use the Confederation Bridge as their point of entry. Since Summerside is so close by, we are naturally included in many travel plans.
In total, there were 166,944 nights spent in Summerside by these travellers. Fixed roof accommodations (hotels, motels, cottages, inns, etc.) were the primary types, while staying with family and friends came in a close second. Of course, there are other types of accommodations as well, such as campgrounds and people that own property here.
PEI’s physical beauty is a great selling point, but that can only take us so far. There are many places in Canada that are quiet, serene, and/or pastoral but lack the allure of PEI. Nothing comes easy and our success in this regard is the result of our people, including entrepreneurs, those in government, and our public-at-large. It is reassuring to see numbers like these because they affirm what we would expect. Here’s hoping that 2019’s survey will do the same.
Immigrate to Populate
If you were to rewind time back to 1931, you would find that the population of PEI was 88,038 and that 55,478 (63%) were of the sub-group “farm population”. Fast-forward to 2011, the total population was 137,375 and 5,150 (3.7%) were farm population.
Why is this change important? It is one of the reasons why natural birth rates have declined between 1931 and 2011. During this time, lifestyles in Canada changed quite drastically. Electricity and automobiles became widespread and that, in part, caused people to become urbanized.As time went on, other improvements occurred as well, allowing for better access to food and more career options. Today, we enjoy many comforts that we consider to be “basic needs” that people decades ago would have not even imagined – televisions, computers, smartphones, automobiles, vacations, large single-family homes, etc. Many of these are marketed to make our lives easier, and they do.
All of these changes point to one end, which is as time goes on, we are willing to sacrifice less and less. This, along with technological advancements, would explain why the farming way of life has diminished. Namely, we are not required to live that way anymore, nor must we raise six children to assist with farm operations. Of course, there are other reasons why family sizes have shrunk, as mentioned above.
So, after 80 years, PEI’s once-mighty natural growth (# of births minus # of deaths) has been floating just above zero for the past several years. The other three Atlantic Provinces share the same scenario. This is not a problem just limited to Canada. Other countries, like Germany and South Korea, have even bigger natural growth problems.
What is the remedy to this? People cannot be forced to reproduce. Natural growth is a reflection of people’s lifestyles, and these will not change anytime soon. Interprovincial migration seems to have negligible long-term net effects and is often a reflection of what part of Canada happens to be the current hotspot for job opportunities. That essentially leaves one source of new people: Immigration.
Immigration is an intricate process that involves many partners, including all levels of government, employers, realtors, accountants, lawyers, and of course, the immigrants themselves. There is much work that has to be done before landing (business concepts, personal finances, interviews) and after landing (executing a business plan, community integration, housing). There is no silver bullet with most issues, and immigration is no different. Convincing someone to move here takes considerable effort; convincing them to remain can be a bigger challenge.
Despite its challenges, immigration, rather than organic growth, is a more realistic method of increasing our population. Not only is it a natural part of economic development, but the planet is filled with people eager to start their lives anew with us. Immigrants are typically well-educated, well-versed, and possess significant business experience. They also bring along their culture and way of life, which can lead to new friendships and personal growth.
Each year, the Province of PEI releases population projections. The most recent release of 2018–2057 uses a yearly immigration target of 2,600 people, which predicts a 2050 population of 219,833. The 2014–2053 projections, however, used a yearly immigration target of 1,400 people. In that case, the 2050 population was expected to be 153,931. This information underscores the considerable impact that immigration can have. Clearly, it is one of the keys to a prosperous Prince Edward Island.
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Director of Economic Development City of Summerside
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