By Trey Boivin 
BOWMANVILLE – The tourism industry in Prince Edward County and the Bay of Quinte is suffering under the COVID-19 pandemic, according to tourism officials.
The quarantine and fear of the virus have cancelled almost all travel and put a strain on tourism all across the world, and Prince Edward County is no different.
Dug Stevenson, the tourism executive director for the Bay of Quinte says that hotels have told him that they’re down 60% and that the local businesses are struggling to stay afloat.
He goes on to say “there have been extremely dramatic effects of the pandemic on businesses in the tourism sector like we haven’t seen ever before and the pandemic will forever change the tourism world.”
Tourism was the highest employer, providing approximately 2,000 jobs according to Mark Kerr, communications and media coordinator for Prince Edward County.
One of the biggest industries that both regions benefit from is the more than 40 wineries in the area, according to Kerr.
“Without tourism, we would not be here! Unfortunately, locals don’t travel within their own area. Tourism brings money into the area,” says Cindy Whitelock, accountant and office manager for Waupoos Winery.
They also had to cancel all of their events and weddings that were scheduled at the winery and their restaurants are only allowed to be at 30 per cent capacity.
However, their best months of the year are still ahead of them. Whitelock says that most of their wine tours happen between July and August then the end of September and the beginning of October during harvest time. The busiest times in Prince Edward County and the Bay of Quinte are also July to August according to Kerr and Stevenson respectively.
Stevenson says, “if we look at the most recent hits to the tourism world – 9/11, SARS and the 2008 financial crisis, we saw a massive resurgence of tourism the following year in each case. So, we’re optimistic the same will happen with COVID-19.”
Although, he also says they won’t see as high numbers as they usually do because the United States border is closed until at least July 21 and people from Quebec are not allowed into Ontario. Even within Ontario, people are still hesitant to travel, according to Kerr. He also says that industry experts are saying that the people from Ontario will be more likely to only travel to places close to home.
“Being a short drive from Toronto, Ottawa we’re well-positioned for a recovery. We are living in uncertain times but the entrepreneurial spirit of the County has been apparent over the past several months,” he says.