The past few years have seen some major changes to tourism on Prince Edward Island. And, though golf and Anne of Green Gables continue to feature prominently in the picturesque Island’s tourism marketing, they are now sharing marketing dollars and growing public attention with some unique-to-PEI events and festivals. Not to mention the occasional Malpeque Oyster.
“The traveling public is always looking for something different or something new,” explains Don Cudmore of the Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island. Culinary tourism is one of the most flavourful items on the well-seasoned travellers’ agenda.
It’s a relatively new industry, but statistics show that more and more people are basing their travel experiences not only on what they see, but on what they eat. Culinary-based tourism on Prince Edward Island has grown exponentially over the past few years. As a result, organizations and businesses in the province have been on a quest to rise to the top of this emerging market.
Tourism Charlottetown has spent the past few years developing the Fall Flavours festival, which features local products and cuisine from across the Island at multiple events within downtown Charlottetown. Participating restaurants and venues highlight locally grown and produced food and drink, which helps spread the ‘Island experience’. It also highlights the inherent added value of culinary tourism: the simultaneous boost to the Island’s agriculture and fishing sectors as various establishments buy more locally produced goods.
The integration of locally grown products with the Prince Edward Island brand in a marketing strategy is an issue the Province takes seriously – and one that is paying off.
“There are a lot of people who won’t get oysters unless they are Malpeque Oysters”, says Lisa Cameron, head chef of the Globe World Flavours restaurant in Charlottetown. This is just one example of an exclusively-local product that is being used as a selling point for visitors to PEI, especially cruise ship passengers – a rapidly growing market for Prince Edward Island. In 2010, Charlottetown is expected to host 75,000 cruise ship passengers. This has grown from 20,000 passengers in 2007.
Prince Edward Island is also well known for its potatoes. But the recognition of PEI potatoes has been slowly losing its value. Now, Tourism PEI, in partnership with the provincial Department of Agriculture and the PEI Potato Board, is taking action to put a PEI logo on potato bags to help promote the Island through its exported products. The plan includes stamping 8-million bags of potatoes with a new branded message, “Pack your appetite for Prince Edward Island potatoes”, to encourage buyers of Island potatoes to come and visit. A contest using this new brand is currently attracting upwards of 900 new contest signups per day through their packyourappetite.ca website. Two winners will be awarded a trip for four to Prince Edward Island. The province is also drawing for $50 in gift certificates from different grocery stores.
These initiatives are trying to capitalize on the world’s growing interest in how and where food is grown. Prince Edward Island has jumped into this emerging market bandwagon by allowing visitors and residents alike to be more in touch with where their food comes from as well as how it is processed and produced.
Adventure tourism is another expanding market on Prince Edward Island – and some companies are already packaging culinary tourism with adventure experiences. The Charlottetown-based company Top Notch Charters offers the unique experience of being able to go out with a fisherman to fish for lobster or crab. The new company was set up to give tourists the chance to hop on board a fishing boat and enjoy the experience of being a fisherman. Captain Mark Jenkins is excited about the new business opportunity. He said it allows him to share his experiences and knowledge of shellfish with others.
The tour begins with him taking his participants out to a few lobster and crab traps to teach them about the history, biology and techniques of lobster and crab fishing. This up-close-and-personal look at the industry allows visitors to observe the homegrown nature of the local fishing industry, and concludes with a lobster meal right on the boat.