The phones at Marco Polo Land were ringing off the hook on Wednesday after the Atlantic premiers announced a travel bubble allowing residents to move freely around the region beginning July 3.
Marco Polo Land campground in Cavendish has been a mainstay in the resort municipality for decades. In just four hours, staff made 110 reservations for next Friday.
“The bubble changed a lot of things,” said Corrie Feehan, who runs the Galley restaurant and dairy bar at Marco Polo Land.
“I was expecting a slow and dismal season,” he said, adding he feels “nervous at the rapid change.”
Joan Bernard manages the Ship’s Stores grocery store at Marco Polo Land. She, too, is happy but anxious at the news of the travel bubble.
“It will be a help for tourism,” said Bernard.
She and Feehan are concerned P.E.I. will see more cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) now that the borders are open, even if it’s just to neighbouring provinces.
The Island has only seen 27 cases of COVID-19, and no one here died from the disease.
“We were so lucky here on P.E.I..” said Bernard. “I think people see P.E.I. as a safe place to come.”
Matthew Jelley, president of the Maritime Fun Group, welcomed news of the travel bubble.
“As a long-time destination for visitors from the Atlantic provinces, (Wednesday’s) announcement is good news for Cavendish,” he said. “At the same time, with the different challenges every business is facing, it’s still going to be a tough year. But yesterday was an important step in moving forward.”
Jelley owns and operates Sandspit amusement park, Shining Waters Family Fun Park and Mariner’s Cove Boardwalk, including Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium, Wax World of Stars and Mariner’s Cove Real Miniature Golf.
“Prince Edward Island is an important market for us, but our business definitely depends on guests from other provinces,” said Jelley.
Those visitors make up between half and three-quarters of his customers.
Jelley, who is also mayor of the Cavendish Resort Municipality, said the bubble announcement spurred several businesses to open for the summer. Others remain unsure, though, which Jelley understands.
“It’s not a question about making money, it’s whether you’ll lose more by staying closed or trying to open with capacity limits in place. That’s an agonizing decision for any operator and certainly one that I’ve been struggling with for three months now.”
Accommodations in the Green Gables Shore region are not at full operation either, said Jelley.
“It is literally changing every day, but as far as total units available, if I needed rooms tomorrow, we’d be at less than 50 per cent. I think by July you’ll see we’ll be closer to 80 or 85 per cent of rooms available. Now that doesn’t mean 80 or 85 per cent are going to be full, but I think you’ll see that many come on stream.”
While visitors from further abroad are cancelling reservations, Jelley said he’s now booking rooms for visitors from within the Atlantic region, mostly for three to four days.
“There’s never been another year like this,” said Jelley, adding, “I’m not aware of anybody that expects to be profitable this season.”
For Jelley, who has been working in Cavendish for more than 30 years, his summer normally begins with watching the weather and waiting for school groups to flood into the amusement parks.
“Those little nuanced parts of Island life have been missing. They’re not coming back this year, but we’re all doing what we can to make sure the businesses survive to be here to serve guests next year as well.”