The City of Charlottetown

A Traveller’s Dream
~ By: Mudeeha Yousaf

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As the Birthplace of Confederation, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, is the perfect melding of an unforgettable historic experience and a scenic island view. With its recent title as the number one place to travel in Canada (2014), Charlottetown is in the midst of its most prosperous year, not only to tour but to live, work and invest in. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, and with that, 2014 marks a significant chapter in the city’s history book with a vision of spreading Charlottetown’s patriot spirit to the rest of Canada.

The 1864 Charlottetown Conference – the meeting that led to the creation of Canada – is the city’s central theme for the year-long celebrations. Charlottetown will play host to numerous national events in 2014 which is a big accomplishment for a small city. The festivities planned are grand, jubilant and elicit national pride through each resident, including the city’s leader, Mayor Clifford Lee. “From a tourism perspective, it’s going to be a fantastic year. Our figures to date show that hotel room bookings are up, the number of people flying into Charlottetown is up and these are trends that will continue to rise as we move along into July and August,” says Mayor Lee, who had been on the City Council 15 years prior to running for mayor. “Charlottetown can be any other city in the country, but I would rather Charlottetown be Charlottetown. Over the 159 years of our existence, heritage preservation has always been a part of our priorities in order to preserve the uniqueness of this city. If you travel around our city, you will find many heritage buildings that were here back in 1864 and remain with us today. We view our heritage preservation as a selling point for tourism.”

               In the past decade, Charlottetown has taken an active approach in attracting tourism to the city and has created a strategic travel motivator that drives tourism through planned events. “We have a vibrant tourism market, speaking with my event development hat on,” says Wayne Long, the City’s Events Development Officer. “2014 is a momentous year for us. It’s a phenomenal year of activities, projects and events. It’s a year of buzz from start to finish and it will be a challenge for us to replicate the success.” The anniversary of the meeting of the Founding Fathers beckoned an 1864 Week event that exuded culture and heritage, and a guest-list that included the Governor General of Canada and the Mayor of Quebec, among other special guests. Charlottetown will continue celebrating milestones in history with a Canada Day celebration that will feature the nation’s largest display of fireworks and entertainment, along with a Founders Week celebration that will feature a Shania Twain concert and Tall Ships Festival.

               As well, PEI 2014 Inc., the arm’s length organization of the provincial government, is working in conjunction with Canadian Heritage, Tourism PEI and the City of Charlottetown to create lasting impressions. “We want 2014 to be a celebration of our local citizens,” advocates Mayor Lee. “The recent recognitions we have received will be promoted through our event attraction activities with an attempt to attract new businesses to the city. The great thing about technology is you can be any place in the world and do business, and we’ve been very successful in attracting a lot of conferences, sporting and entertainment events [with hosting NHL training camps] and attracting national and international finance businesses. It’s a confirmation that Charlottetown is a great place to do business and a beautiful tourism area.” With this in mind, the city is host to four different conferences which will increase employment for local citizens, provide a boost for small, family-run operations and will sustain businesses for the long-term.

“Businesses not only look for low-cost places to do business with a readily available work force, but what else is happening in the destination and what it has to offer,” says Long. “We plan to create a platform for our economic development side to show we are a vibrant destination.” Also gaining media reach is Charlottetown’s recent partnership with Ville de Quebec – a twofold partnership that will strengthen the relationship between the two cities. First, the city to city three-year partnership aims to promote both cities as strong historic spaces and will take them right towards 2017 and the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. As well, there is a tri-partnership between the two cities and PEI 2014 Inc. “The federal government has made it clear that there is a lot of history in both cities and wanted us to work together. We are happy to celebrate Quebec day in Charlottetown. Quebec City will host a Charlottetown day as well, which will showcase dances, musical artists, gardens, tall ships festivals and a memorial statue in each partnering city. It’s been a real success story for us,” says Long.

               Not only a tourist destination for the ages, Charlottetown has also ranked 1st in business costs according to KPMG International’s bi-annual study: Competitive Alternatives – Guide to International Business Location Costs for 2014. The international report, which was comprised of ten countries and over 130 cities, listed Charlottetown as a cost-effective business location for corporate services, including professional services and corporate shared services. “The report confirms what we’ve been saying in Charlottetown for a number of years, but it’s meaningful when an outside agency says it. We’re very proud of that ranking,” boasts Mayor Lee. This ranking speaks to the city’s phenomenal education system, property tax system and low taxation rate that makes the cost of living a lot less than other urban cities, such as Vancouver or Toronto, and increases the quality of life for residents. “We’ve invested considerable dollars in upgrades to our recreational facilities and recognize the fact that we need to attract young professional families as well as bringing in more immigrants to the community to sustain the province.”

Though, Mayor Lee recognizes that there are issues that must be addressed in order to prosper the city further, such as a need for infrastructure funding. “We are well aware, as are other municipal governments in this country, that there is a dire need for major amounts of money to be invested into communities from the provincial and federal governments. There is a new program being developed [The Build Canada Fund] which hasn’t been signed in PEI yet, but we are anticipating it will be signed to improve our province’s infrastructure.” Charlottetown also ranked no. 4 for most cost-effective city studied in North America for overall business costs, which is further proof that Charlottetown is a city all investors should keep an eye on.

               The vivaciousness of the city leaks into every visitor that walks on the sandy shores of the island, and when they return to their homes they take back with them a piece of Canadian history. Charlottetown will continue to bolster its economy, build on its historic roots and shelter a culture of national inheritance for the remainder of its existence.

“For a small city in a small province, I think Charlottetown plays a major role in attraction – attracting visitors, and boosting the tourism industry. Over the years there have been efforts in attracting the Asian market to our province, for example,” says Mayor Lee about Charlottetown’s future endeavours. “We have a fantastic workforce, and when people move to Charlottetown they stay here for the long-term.”