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Business Sector Focus Group Notes

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Business Focus Group

Brackley Beach Northwinds Inn

May 31, 2016

Participants

  • Jamie Aiken – Finance PEI
  • Jeff Ready – Finance PEI
  • Ron Holley – CBDC
  • Bertha Jay – BDC
  • Melissa MacEachern – UPEI
  • Richard Gallant – Department of Workforce & Advance Learning
    Tim McRoberts – Holland College
  • Penny Walsh-McGuire – Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Ellen O’Brien – Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Wendy Drake – MRSB
  • Barb MacDonald – Parks Canada
  • Ocel Dauphinais-Matheson – Parks Canada
  • Tara McNally-MacPhee – Parks Canada
  • Chris Jones – Department of Economic Development and Tourism
  • Bernadette Power – ACOA

Notes from the this focus group are as follows:

Education

  • There is a strong connection currently between Holland College programs and the tourism industry as a result of student internships/job placements, staff/faculty professionally connected to the industry and represented on various boards and committee.
  • There is an identified opportunity for lateral mobility of students at Holland College to allow for a more rounded education in the area of tourism and hospitality. E.g. providing pathways for students to access courses across various tourism and hospitality sectors.
  • UPEI and Holland College partner in a 2+2 education program. While there is a specialization in tourism at UPEI it is not an active program. Courses are not offered on an annual basis. There has been discussion to develop an international tourism program however this is very much still in the discussion phase.
  • In the absence of a tourism program, the question was raised, whether there was an opportunity to integrate tourism into some of the existing Bachelor of Business Administration courses being offered.

Financing

  • Access to capital was not identified to be a barrier. There are many avenues to access financing. The barrier maybe the skill to effectively prepare a funding request. Opportunity for business skills development within the industry.
  • Succession planning is a challenge with operators looking for an exit strategy. New Canadians are in some cases offering that exit strategy however this requires attention to ensure they have knowledge of operating business in a new environment.
  • Accommodation product was noted as a product area in need of a refresh to ensure quality visitor experience.
  • Access to capital for experiential product development type investment wasn’t considered to be as accessible as perhaps traditional bricks and mortar type investment.

Workforce

  • Access to workforce is a factor contributing to the seasonal nature of the industry. Wages are historically low and therefore filled by students. A challenge as we try and extend season.
  • There are more people leaving the workforce than entering. The tourism sector requires a workforce strategy that considers not just students but also part-time, new Canadians, seniors, etc.)
  • Companies are not always structured in a way or have the capacity to address human resource issues including compensation, retention, etc.)

Season Extension

  • Appears to be a lack of a coordinated strategy to extend the season. A critical mass of product is needed for this to be successful.

Parks Canada

  • It has changed their approach/business model and are much more active and engaged in the visitor experience, private/public partnership opportunities, etc.
  • Investment in products such as the Otentiks, learn to camp programming, etc. to attract new visitors to the Park is proving successful
  • With a limited marketing budget, it needs to be creative and collaborative in reaching its target audience.

What is a reasonable target for the strategy?

  • Growth will be challenged without support for capital investment for SMEs and operator skills/training,
  • Goal needs to be more than just numbers. It needs to include something that will speak to the individual operator to re-energize them.