PEI has the answers

Tourism PEI's new program hopes to connect Canadians with the island's most authentic characters.

PEI Tourism Ask an Islander. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. May 7, 2015 (photo: Vito Amati)

Tourism Prince Edward Island is looking to bring people to the province this summer by connecting Canadians with its most authentic residents.

With its new “Ask an Islander” program, Canadians can submit questions through a microsite or on social media to get answers from 20 different islanders across a spectrum of specialities, from food to entertainment to golf. Tourism PEI built up the base of islanders by connecting with influencers, some of whom are well-known nationally, like celebrity chef Michael Smith, and others who are more locally-known like musician Meaghan Blanchard (pictured above) and radio personality Zack Bell. Questions can also be asked on social media with the #askanislander hashtag. Depending on the complexity of the question, timing for a response might vary, since the goal is to provide in-depth answers from experts, but for the most part, Canadians can expect to connect within a couple of days.

“We’re the smallest province, we have the smallest budgets, so we have to find some unique and innovative ideas,” says Brenda Gallant, director of marketing at Tourism PEI. With many of the province’s main attractions, like beaches and golf, it’s competing against other destinations that offer similar experiences, she notes. “What takes it to that next level [for PEI] is really the authenticity of the people. As opposed to getting a response from an official government entity or a tourism company, you’re getting the real voice of Prince Edward Island.”

Tourism, about a $380 million per year industry in PEI, is a large part of the province’s economy, second only to agriculture. It accounts for 7% of the province’s GDP, compared with Canada overall, where tourism is only about 2% of GDP. Several years ago, the province did run an “ask me” type program, with people on the island available to give guidance for tourists, but this is the first time the province has taken such an approach online.

The program will be promoted through some paid social on Facebook and Twitter, although much of it will be organic. Tourism PEI’s wider “Add a Little Island” marketing campaign includes OOH, print and digital elements this summer. In June, Tourism PEI will also be launching airport activations in Toronto and Montreal, including digital screens featuring some questions being asked through the Ask an Islander program.

Toronto’s Hiero Marketing manages the Tourism PEI account, working with Halifax’s Prime Creative, Zeno Group for PR, and M2 Universal for media buying on the Ask and Islander launch.

Photo: Meaghan Blanchard performs during the Ask an Islander launch event at Toronto restaurant Ruby Watchco yesterday.