CHARLOTTETOWN - Declining traffic numbers on the Confederation Bridge are a cause of concern for the executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.
Don Cudmore said his first reaction to tourism numbers released by the provincial government Wednesday was to an 11.6 per cent decline in bridge traffic for the month of June.
The drop continues a trend that has plagued the bridge every month in 2013.
"It's certainly something to be concerned about," said Cudmore, who noted that air, ferry and motorcoach traffic have all remained similar to last year. "We haven't had an increase (in bridge traffic) yet this year."
Don Maxfield, co-owner of Cavendish Figurines in Gateway Village, is one tourism operator who hasn't noticed the traffic decline.
In fact, sales at the site, which is located just after arriving on P.E.I. from the bridge, increased 13 per cent in June.
Maxfield points to more cruise ship traffic, which was up a whopping 174.9 per cent, as the reason.
"There's been more cruise ships this year. Usually the Maasdam and Veendam go to Europe in the summer," he said. "It's the motor coaches from the cruise ships (that brings business), it wasn't the rubber tire traffic off the bridge."
Maxfield said the business' July numbers were also up and that evenings this summer seem to be busier than usual.
"(Usually) people arrive at Gateway Village at six o'clock at night and are just interested in getting to their accommodations," he said. "We get a lot of business after five o'clock. I think it must be because the cottage owners the people renting them all along the South Shore."
It wasn't all bad news in the report, as overnight stays have increased by 16 per cent.
Those figures come from a 32 per cent increase in local campground sites, and a room night increase of seven per cent.
Cudmore said he believes the increase could be attributed to the length of stay, as well as Islanders who may be discovering their own province.
"People are staying here longer," he said. "There may be more Islands having staycations. They're staying in P.E.I. for a number of reasons."
Tourism minister Robert Henderson said while the numbers of stays are encouraging, they are from early in the season.
"It's still a little early to draw any conclusions about the relative success of the tourism season," said Henderson in a press release. "Those numbers are encouraging, but they are from early in the season. The real story will emerge once we dig into the July and August numbers later this year."
Henderson said while the decrease in bridge traffic was "worth noting," the key indicator of a successful tourism season comes from the number of overnight stays.
John-Anthony Langdale, chair of the Tourism Advisory Council, said the increase in overnight stays is encouraging for the industry.
"With the many events and activities planned for the rest of the season, we expect to see continued growth."
Cudmore said he's also interested in seeing the July numbers.
He said the first part of July seemed busy, which is when the Cavendish Beach Music Festival was held.
"There is typically a lull after that (the festival) and it picks up again around the end of July. I'm they (the bridge) will do better in August," he said. "It's a competitive industry. We've got a great product but we've also got a lot of competition."
The full June tourism indicators report can be found atwww.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/current_tourism.pdf.