Tourism is a big industry on P.E.I. and an Island group is hoping to make it even bigger.
The Tourism Advisory Council of P.E.I. (TAC) announced its new five-year tourism strategy Thursday alongside the province's new tourism marketing plan.
Murphy Group of Restaurants owner and TAC chair Kevin Murphy unveiled Strategy 2015: Momentum-Innovation-Mobilization, which outlined the organization's long-term plans for the industry.
The strategy's underlining goal is to build the industry into the most influential sector in the Island economy with $500 million in direct revenues by 2015.
Murphy said tourism is already more important to P.E.I. than it is to any other province.
"It's important that we continue to grow it," he said.
During his presentation, Murphy outlined the objectives the TAC set out for the strategy, including heightening P.E.I.'s overall tourism stature, turning the Island into Canada's leading coastal and beach destination, and getting the industry involved in the strategy.
To do so, the strategy calls for a focus on what Murphy called demand generators, which research showed are P.E.I.'s key assets when it comes to the tourism sector and are expected to provide the best return on investment.
Those demand generators will focus on culture, culinary, meetings and conventions and golf.
Murphy said the industry has been working to improve over time and has momentum to carry it forward, but it will take time.
"Things don't change overnight," he said.
But while most tourism operators at the announcement seemed receptive to the strategy, not everyone was convinced the $500-million goal is achievable in five years.
Matthew Jelley, whose family owns Sandspit and Shining Waters Family Fun Park in Cavendish, said the strategy sets ambitious targets on revenue, but he wants to know how the industry is going to reach that target and which partners will have to be involved.
"That's my primary question and it's going to take investments not only by levels of government but also by operators as well," he said.
The strategy aims for a 3.5 per cent increase in annual revenue for 2011 for a total of $383 million, with a peak increase of eight per cent in 2014 when P.E.I. celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference.
But Jelley said every business is different and in a mature industry like tourism, older businesses may not be able to attain the growth levels needed to meet the target.
"Now if you look at an individual business, newer business, sure they're still in the growth stage. A business that's been in business for 30 years seeing an eight per cent growth level would be very unexpected."
Meanwhile, the province also unveiled its new $2-million marketing plan that will use a partnership model to develop campaigns through several companies instead of just one agency.
The plan calls for several campaigns, which will focus on different aspects of Island tourism and tailor them to specific markets in a model that is more flexible than what the province has done in the past.
Campaigns will avoid TV ads, except in Quebec, and will instead fund initiatives online, in print and on regional radio, along with testing new initiatives.
Not all of the details of the marketing plan were available Thursday, including one campaign called P.E.I. Bound, which the presenters would not elaborate on, other than to say its goal is to create a sense of urgency to visit P.E.I.
Tourism Department director of marketing communications Brenda Gallant said the new campaign will also have a focus on social media, for which the province now has a strategy.
"We will be able to take social media to a whole new level in comparison to what we had before," she said.
Gallant said the Tourism Department pulled out of TV commercials last year because they are expensive to produce and the province wasn't getting the best value for its money.
"I still do believe in television commercials but you have to have the right penetration and that's why we selected to only have commercials in the Quebec market."