The old adage “if you build it they will come” may be the blueprint for Summerside to attract a portion of the very lucrative cruise ship market.
The city has had little success over the years in bringing cruise ships to the western capital.
On June 17, Summerside welcomed its first cruise ship since 2005 and that was by default.
The ship could not get a berth in Charlottetown so it came to Summerside.
The Summerside port has limitations on the size of the cruise ships it can accommodate because of its shallow draft, but it can certainly berth smaller vessels.
The Yorktown sailed in in June bringing with it more than 150 passengers and crew, a welcome plus for the local tourism industry. It will be back twice in September and once in October.
Projections for this year’s cruise ship season are calling for a record-breaking 70 ships bringing more than 140,000 passengers and crew to the Island.
Summerside needs to get a part of that market to bolster its tourism industry and it cannot rely on luck, as was the case with the Yorktown visit. It’s one thing to get them here but it’s something else to make them want to come back.
There’s a lot of work that needs to be done if Summerside is going to realize any economic benefit from the cruise ship industry.
Experience P.E.I., founded by Bill and Mary Kendrick, specializes in activities tourists don't normally get the opportunity to experience, and they are focusing on the cruise ship market. They have a unique marketing strategy to bring passengers to the western capital and Prince County area.
That’s all well and good but being able to bring the vessels into the Summerside port is something altogether different.
Passengers would have more time to spend in the city, providing there is something for them to see and do.
That’s where the blueprint comes into play, if there was one.
Arnold Croken, president of the Summerside Port Corporation, put it best.
“My message to retailers in Summerside is there is a lot of work to be done,” Croken said. “We have a lot to do here with our packaging and identifying with operators what do we have in Summerside and Prince County that could be attractive to the tour operators. We have to connect those together.”
It’s going to take a concerted effort on the part of city officials, the Greater Summerside Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Summerside, Downtown Summerside and merchants and operators in general to make a blueprint to attract and retain what is a lucrative tourism market.