Tourism Minister Robert Henderson says he will be lowering his department's expectations for golf revenues now that Tourism P.E.I. has had to go to cabinet for almost $1.4 million to cover golf course losses.
Cabinet approved a special warrant for $1,398,000 last week under the heading 'miscellaneous grants.'
Henderson said this money was needed because his department overestimated the amount of revenue expected for 2011 from the four provincially-owned golf courses.
Dundarave, Brudenell, Crowbush and Mill River drew a little less than $4 million in revenues this year. That's over $1 million less than expected, Henderson said.
"We overestimated what the revenues were going to be."
That's why in this year's budget, he plans to adjust his figures.
"We want to try to minimize any unexpected things like this and I think we will want to try to make (the numbers) much more accurate to the realities of the economy," he said.
Henderson named several factors he believes contributed to the poor golf revenues last year. The summer was rainy, the economy was sluggish and the number of tourists visiting P.E.I. was down.
And despite the fact revenues for golf were less than $4 million while operating costs for the four provincial golf courses is just over $5 million, Henderson believes the provincial courses are a good investment.
"The golf industry contributes significantly to the provincial economy. Spinoffs from golf contributed to about $60 million in provincial revenues," he said.
"We're not giving up on golf."
Opposition Tourism Critic James Aylward was highly critical of government handing over a million dollars to Tourism P.E.I. to make up for its budget shortfalls.
At a time when even NGOs that receive provincial funding will be facing a three per cent government-wide cut this year (which excludes health care), Aylward said Islanders will likely find this 'bail out' tough to take.
"I don't think this is going to go over very well," he said.
"We have many tourism operators in the province that, if they have a poor year, they don't get money from tourism, they don't get money from the government. Instead, if they run a loss in a particular year, the very first line item for their budget for their next year is their deficit."
Aylward said the province should come up with a better plan to deal with the losses.
One of the biggest problems is the high cost of playing at these courses, Aylward noted.
He said he does not golf at the provincial courses.
"Why? Because I can't afford them," he said.
"If you talk to many Islanders, they'd love to golf Crowbush, Dundarave, Mill River... but if you're pricing your product to the point where even your locals can't afford to enjoy those facilities, then you're losing out on a pretty good market."
Henderson said he hopes 2012 will prove to be a better year for golf in P.E.I.