Local tourism operations see steady increase with Atlantic bubble

Placing dividers in golf carts is one of the ways the Mill River Resort in Woodstock is ensuring patrons are able to enjoy themselves playing a round of golf while also maintaining safety protocols resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The divider can be rolled down, and is fastened to the cart with Velcro. Once the cart is returned, the whole thing is sanitized from top to bottom. In photo: Geoffrey Irving, president of the Mill River Resort.            Jillian Trainor photo

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Tourism operators in West Prince have begun to see an increase in visitations now that the Atlantic bubble has opened up, allowing visitors from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia onto the Island. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Island’s tourism season this year has been different than any other season before.

“The season prior to the Atlantic bubble, it was okay, given the circumstances,” said Geoffrey Irving, president of the Mill River Resort in Woodstock. “We had a lot of staycation traffic in the month of June since we weren’t able to open to the other provinces.”

Along with the resort itself, Mill River is also leasing the Northport Pier Inn and Restaurant. Mr Irving said the resort’s board of directors have been seeing similarities between the two locations as far as accommodations are concerned. The restaurant is being sublet to Michaela Fraser and family, and it also seems to be doing as well as could be expected this season.

The resort is one of the larger tourism operations in West Prince, along with Tignish Initiatives, which operates a variety of seasonal and year-round businesses including the Stompin’ Tom Centre in Skinners Pond, Tignish Heritage Inn & Gardens, the Tignish Cultural Centre, and more.

The Initiative’s general manager and CEO said, prior to the bubble, there wasn’t really a season to speak of, and numbers are still down compared to last year, but events like the Stompin’ Tom Festival series are still going ahead.

“We’ve been approved for two groups of 50 for outdoors. We built a new outdoor stage to easily accommodate the social distancing between groups,” said Anne Arsenault. “We’ve got the big tent out there for folks who want to sit in the shade, lots of picnic tables and that sort of thing. All the measures are in place and followed to keep everyone safe and comfortable. We’re trying to provide some much needed entertainment to allow people to get out and enjoy themselves in the midst of the pandemic.”

Erica Wagner, owner and operator of Backwoods Burger in Tyne Valley said the main dining establishment has kept pace with previous years, but their seasonal location in West Point did see a dip. She said the location was able to make things work at the seasonal spot by reducing hours and with changes in service levels.

Ms Wagner said she’s seen a steady increase in business, but nothing that was hugely noticeable all at once.

All operations are maintaining the proper social distancing measures, including a reduction in capacity, keeping six feet apart, floor markings indicating which way a person should be walking, and a lot of hand washing and sanitizing.

While there have been challenges when it comes to dealing with the pandemic, there have also been some nice aspects as well.

“Our reduced hours have been great for the staff,” Ms Wagner concluded. “It’s a bit more stressful, (and there’s) a few more things to manage, so having those fewer hours allows us extra time to recharge and enjoy this interesting summer.”

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