PE: Big events 'too risky' for Tourism Charlottetown

Teresa Wright
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The Guardian

TCI laid off its four events management staff on Friday saying it wanted to move away from putting on large-scale events.

Tourism Charlottetown president Doug Newson stands in front of a promotional LCD screen at the Charlottetown Airport displaying a photo of the Charlottetown waterfront.

[CHARLOTTETOWN, PE] — Tourism Charlottetown Inc. should not have to bear all the risk of organizing large scale events, which is why it is getting out of the events business, the organization's president, Doug Newson said Monday.

TCI laid off its four events management staff on Friday saying it wanted to move away from putting on events, but Newson did not speak publicly about this major shift in focus for the organization until Monday.

Newson said organizing major events is just too financially risky for TCI.

"It's no secret we had some challenges with Cirque du Soleil a year-and-a-half ago and we've been reviewing our focus and what our mandate is and what our organization should be," he said in an interview. "For years this organization was taking on activities or events, not a lot of them were making huge amounts of money for the company and those things all add up. So at the end of the day, we had to basically make a decision about what's our focus going to be going forward and this is why we decided to go in this direction."

TCI has faced much controversy over the past few years, notably after it lost over $1 million on a Cirque du Soleil event held in 2010.

Now the future of events such as Jack Frost and Fall Flavours are in question.

Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee told The Guardian last week the only event the city will guarantee to take on is the family-oriented Canada Day festivities. The rest will be up for review.

Newson said Tourism Charlottetown believes more private sector partners should come on board to help keep alive these events, which benefit hotels and restaurants during off-season months.

TCI should not have to bear financial losses for an event that only benefits others, he said.

"An event like Jack Frost, I think everyone wants to see it continue. But if there's risk involved, if the event is losing money, why should we be taking on that risk? Why not have either some level of government or the private sector or a combination of those organizations with those that benefit from it and to take on the risk of that event?"

Lee also told The Guardian Friday the city's annual $114,000 contribution to Tourism Charlottetown may not continue with these changes to its mandate.

Newson said the Hotel Association, which provides TCI with money from its hotel room levy for tourism marketing and promotion, as well as the province are also reviewing their funding plans for Tourism Charlottetown.

He pointed out, however, that most provincial money is aimed at the meetings and conventions part of TCI, which will not be impacted by current organization changes.

With less staff and no big expensive events to put on, losing some funding will not hurt too badly, Newson said.

"We'll have less staff and we'll have less overhead so we wouldn't count on that particular funding."

From now on, Tourism Charlottetown will be focused mainly on marketing the capital and booking conventions. It will no longer be involved in creating specific draws to the city for tourists.

"Going forward we will really only be involved from a marketing standpoint. Going forward we would prefer to see other private sector partners organize especially large-scale, high-risk events," Newson said.

Organizations: Cirque du Soleil, The Guardian, Hotel Association

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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